Vaccine Frequency: Adapting to the Age of Social Media

Three medical researchers and two epidemiologists have written in Search Posted on July 7 by New England Journal of Medicine.

And the starting point for their article is not the series of concerns in the past two years about a vaccine against COVID, but the series of concerns about the vaccine against H1N1 influenza, in 2009. They remember that already, at the time, the WHO meeting had warned that ” Public distrust In vaccines it threatens to undermine the political will needed to respond quickly to the most severe influenza pandemic in the future. »

First, the three authors recall that it is normal for every vaccination campaign to be accompanied by fluctuations in frequency: “peaks” can be fueled by an unexpected news event, a report, a misleading statement by a politician, a loud extremist group, etc.

But what is less natural is the acceleration of these fluctuations since the early 1990s, which is the acceleration that they associate with internet access And in the past ten years on social media. This paradigm shift, they wrote, requires modifications in the ways in which we communicate and respond to vaccine-related concerns: “Vaccine acceptance can be increased, but responding to emerging concerns is key.”

They state that indecision should not be confused with anti-vaccination: “A period of hesitation and hesitation is a time of weakness, as well as opportunity. Feelings about whether or not to get vaccinated can change, and change more often, as multiple surveys have shown.”

We must therefore be attentive to these “emerging interests”, and to do so, we must follow their development. It’s one of the projects the paper’s first author, anthropologist Heidi Larson, and founding director of the Vaccine Trust Project are working on. We also owe him a famous book called Revealing, Stuck: How Vaccine Rumors Get Started and Why Not Going Away (2020).

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Social media has its own drawbacks, and this can be the place to collect real-time data. Experiments in this direction have been underway since the beginning of the epidemic, particularly in FB And the Twitter. Although the users of these platforms are not necessarily representative of the population, the first data collected goes in the same direction as the surveys conducted on these topics. Above all, the “large volume of data on vaccine frequency” collected in this way provides something unprecedented: a geographic map of vaccine frequency across the United States. What to think about responses to these “emerging concerns”, but responses that, in addition, will be regionally modified, using local or community resources – as many have recommended during a pandemic.

This will be even more important going forward, as “given the changing and dynamic nature of vaccine frequency,” “keeping dialogue open will be essential to identifying these emerging concerns early.”

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