JMIR public health and surveillance 2018 01 194(1) e7 doi 10.2196/publichealth.8921
There is a large presence of provaccination and antivaccination content on the Internet. The Internet has been identified as an important source for parents to seek and share vaccine information. There are concerns that parental fears or hesitancy on childhood immunizations are increasing due to the popularity of social media and exposure to online antivaccination sentiment. No other studies have investigated the association between seeking vaccine information online and Canadian parents’ perception of risk on childhood immunization.
We aimed to investigate the potential association between seeking vaccine information on the Internet and Canadian parents’ perception of risk on childhood immunization in order to quantify the perceived association and increase our understanding on the impact of the Internet to help guide public health interventions.
We analyzed this association in two population samples: a self-selecting Web-based sample of Canadian parents recruited through Facebook (n=966) and a population-based sample of parents recruited by random digit dialing (RDD; n=951). The outcome was parental perception of vaccine safety on a seven-point ordinal scale from "not safe" to "extremely safe." An ordinal regression model was used to investigate if Internet information seeking on childhood vaccination predicted parental perception of vaccine safety.
After adjusting for income level, Internet reliability, age of parent, and region, the odds of perceiving vaccines as less safe rather than more safe were 1.6 times higher (95% CI 1.3-2.1) for parents who used the Internet to search for vaccination information compared to parents who did not search the Internet in the Web-based sample, and 2.0 times higher (95% CI 1.6-2.5) in the population-based RDD sample.
The results suggest the Internet is significantly associated with Canadian parents’ negative perception of vaccine risk. Governmental and scientific sectors should consider the development and implementation of Web-based vaccine interventions to promote confidence in immunization.