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Study: Access to online experts tied to better vaccination rates :

November 6, 2017

Mothers were more likely to vaccinate their infants on time if they spoke with experts online first, a new study found.

“The results suggest that interactive, informational interventions administered outside of the physician’s office can improve vaccine acceptance,” authors wrote in the study “Web-based Social Media Intervention to Increase Vaccine Acceptance: A Randomized Controlled Trial” (Glanz JM, et al. Pediatrics. Nov. 6, 2017,

Researchers wanted to explore the effectiveness of interventions given that roughly 10% to 15% of parents don’t strictly follow the recommended vaccine schedule for their children. They hypothesized that a “dynamic online environment could help build trust and combat misinformation.”

As part of the Colorado Vaccine Social Media study, the team recruited pregnant women to take part in a randomized controlled trial from September 2013 to July 2016. Most of the women were white and college-educated with a mean age of 31.6 years. About 14% expressed hesitance about vaccines, but they were not identified to researchers.

The women were assigned at random to have access to a website with vaccine information and social media, a website with vaccine information only or usual care.

The websites included information about the risks and benefits of vaccination, the recommended schedule and vaccine ingredients. The social media included a blog, discussion forum, chat room, monthly newsletters and a portal where participants could ask experts questions.

Participants were not required to use the websites or social media features. About 35% of the two groups with access used the site at least once, including 44% of those who were vaccine hesitant and 34% of the non-hesitant women. Researchers found women using the social media features were communicating with experts more than each other.

For 200 days, researchers followed the women’s 888 infants who received regular well-child visits. They tracked the acceptance of six vaccines — hepatitis B; rotavirus; diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis; Haemophilus influenzae type b; pneumococcal conjugate vaccine; and polio. They also ranked the number of days infants were undervaccinated.

The mean ranks for undervaccinated days for all vaccines were 438.5 for the social media group, 443 for the website-only group and 465 for the usual care group. At 200 days, roughly 92.5% of the social media group, 91.3% of the website-only group and 86.6% of the usual care group were up to date on their vaccines.

In both analyses, the differences between the social media and usual care groups were significant, but those between social media and website-only groups and between website-only and usual care groups were not.

“Our intervention demonstrated that parental vaccine behaviors can be positively influenced with a carefully timed, interactive online vaccine informational resource administered by their healthcare organization,” authors wrote.

However, they noted their interactive features required significant resources, and clinicians may be better off sharing a centralized information source. More study would be needed to determine whether parents would trust it.

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