The number of children who are unvaccinated in the US is rising, and health experts believe misinformation obtained online could be to blame.
A study published in Clinical Pediatrics this month found over 2/3 of online videos to be incorrect when discussing vaccine health risks.
Dr. Daliah Wachs with students and faculty from Touro University Nevada reviewed 200 videos on YouTube that resulted when searching the terms “vaccines,” “vaccine risk,” “vaccine side effects,” and “vaccines and autism,” and found 68% of the videos to contain misinformation. They additionally found that most of the misinformation occurred within the first 2 minutes of the video.
The most common types of misleading information were:
- Factually contradicting the CDC or UpToDate, a widely used clinical resource for clinicians and patients
- Offering anecdotal evidence (based on personal accounts or hearsay)
- Utilizing unreliable resources or not citing resources
The study authors write: “It is important to recognize that most of the population does not possess a background in medicine or research. The majority of people are susceptible to taking information at face value, and lack the time and energy to delve into the credibility of a video on vaccines as we have in this study.”
The failure by the viewer to fact check the information or sources provided may also come from a misled perception that the online health video was produced by a renowned clinical resource.
If the video is an opinion piece, it many times does not specify.
Wachs states, “when a parent has a child who is unvaccinated, the reasoning can span over a wide range… anywhere from religious preference, to inability to take off work, to fearing a side effect, to distrust of the medical community.
“Parents on the fence about vaccination may feel apprehensive about bringing this up to their medical provider and turn to online education instead. So this study gives insight to the types and quality of information to which some parents may be exposed.”
Although the majority of children in the US are routinely vaccinated, in 2018 the CDC found the proportion of children “who received no vaccine doses by age 24 months” to be gradually increasing.
Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP is a nationally syndicated radio personality on GCN Network, KDWN, iHeart Radio and is Board Certified Family Physician