Online, social media intervention improves infant vaccination rates
The use of a web-based, social media platform that includes blogs, discussion forums and a way for pregnant women to question health care experts about infant vaccination positively affected vaccine behaviors of parents, according to a study published in Pediatrics.
“There was a huge range in the types of questions asked, but most questions were concerning the vaccine schedule,” Jason M. Glanz, PhD, senior investigator at Kaiser Permanente Colorado Institute for Health Research and associate professor of epidemiology at the Colorado School of Public Health, said in an interview with Infectious Diseases with Children. “Of those parents who refuse or delay vaccination, the majority are choosing these alternate schedules where they want to spread vaccines out and they are concerned that kids are getting too many vaccines at once.”
To examine whether early childhood immunization could increase as a result of a web-based, social media intervention, researchers conducted a three-armed, randomized controlled trial from September 2013 to July 2016 in Colorado. Pregnant women were randomly assigned to one of three interventions in a 3:2:1 ratio: website with vaccine information and interactive social media component (VSM); website with vaccine information (VI); or usual care (UC).
The vaccination status of the children born to these mothers was assessed from birth to 200 days. Glanz and colleagues examined data collected for days spent undervaccinated, measured as a continuous and dichotomous variable.
Of the 888 mothers included in the study, those in the VSM arm had significantly fewer mean days that their children were undervaccinated compared to those who received UC (P = .02); however, these results were not significantly different between VI and UC groups (P = .08) or VSM and VI cohorts (P = .63). At 200 days, the proportion of infants who were up-to-date with their immunizations was 92.5% for the VSM group; 91.3% in the VI group; and 86.6% in the UC group.
Children of mothers who participated in the VSM group had a higher likelihood of being up-to-date on immunizations than those in the UC group (OR = 1.92; 95% CI, 1.07-3.47), although this status was not observed as significantly different between VI and UC cohorts (OR = 1.62; 95% CI, 0.87-3.00) or between VSM and VI cohorts (OR – 1.19, 95% CI, 0.70-2.03).
“It is not a bad idea to engage parents upfront who are enrolled in your health plan, even doing focus groups and interviews to find out what their concerns and needs are,” Glanz said. “I think it is important to note that even though this was a website, I would not categorize it as an inexpensive intervention because of the interaction involved.”
“When we got questions about rumors on the internet, it was complicated because there are websites out there that are run by physicians who are antivaccine. These articles have a lot of scientific information and look legitimate,” Glanz continued. “We had to read those articles, check the references and craft easy-to-digest responses for the parents. The amount of resources that go into doing something like this is not trivial.” – by Katherine Bortz
Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.