Issue: June 2013
Source: Larson HJ. Lancet Infect Dis. 2013;doi:10.1016/S1473-3099(13)70108-7
May 16, 2013

Surveillance tool aims to detect, monitor public vaccine concerns

Issue: June 2013
Source: Larson HJ. Lancet Infect Dis. 2013;doi:10.1016/S1473-3099(13)70108-7
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Real-time monitoring and evaluation of vaccine concerns could help immunization programs create more effective strategies to address public concerns, according to recent study results published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

“The Internet has speeded up the global spread of unchecked rumors and misinformation about vaccines and can seriously undermine public confidence, leading to low rates of vaccine uptake and even disease outbreaks,” Heidi Larson, PhD, of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said in a press release.

The study included data from 10,380 reports from 144 countries between May 1, 2011, and April 30, 2012. Content was categorized by positive/neutral reports (69%) and negative reports (31%). Data were collected using the HealthMap collection system to monitor online reports about vaccines, vaccination programs and vaccine-preventable diseases.

“Real-time monitoring and analysis of vaccine concerns could help governments and public health officials locally, nationally, and globally understand where they should focus their attention and resources when a concern arises, and where specific vaccines might need more tailored engagement strategies,” Larson said.

Of the negative reports, 24% were associated with impacts on vaccine programs and disease outbreaks; 21% with beliefs, awareness and perceptions; 16% with vaccine safety; 16% with vaccine delivery programs; 13% with vaccine recommendations; 7% with contextual factors; and 3% with vaccine development and introduction, according to researchers.

Of the positive/neutral reports, 31% were associated with vaccine delivery programs; 15% with vaccine recommendations; 10% with contextual factors; 7% with beliefs; 3% with vaccine safety; and 1% with impacts on vaccine programs and disease outbreaks.

“Although 69% of the global reports were positive about vaccines, 31% were not,” researchers wrote. “And, of these 31%, a large proportion of concerns are related to belief systems. The public health community should not underestimate the implications of the global burden of belief.”

Disclosure: One researcher reports an equity stake in Epidemico.