Vaccines are one of the most important achievements of modern medicine. However, their acceptance is only partial, with vaccine hesitancy and refusal representing a major health threat. Influenza vaccines have low compliance since repeated, annual vaccination is required. The Influenza vaccines stimulate discussions both in the real world and online. Social media is currently a significant source of health and medical information. Elucidating the association between social media engagement and influenza vaccination is important, and maybe applicable to other vaccines, including against COVID-19.
To characterize profiles of social media engagement regarding influenza vaccine and their association with knowledge and compliance in order to support improvement of future web-associated vaccination campaigns.
A web-link to an online survey in Hebrew has been disseminated over social media and messaging platforms. The answers were collected during April 2020. Anonymous and volunteer participants aged over 21 years answered 30 questions (socio-demographics; social media usage; influenza- and vaccine-related knowledge and behavior; health-related information search, its reliability and influence; and COVID-19-related information search). A univariate descriptive data analysis was performed, followed by multivariate analysis via building a decision tree to define the most important attributes associated with vaccination compliance. This survey was approved by the ethics committee of the Faculty of Technology Management of the Holon Institute of Technology (TM/2/2020/AB/002).
213 subjects responded to the survey, of whom 207 were included in the analysis; mostly females, aged 21-40 years, having 1-2 children, living in central Israel, secular Israeli-natives, having higher education and a salary close to the national average. Most respondents (61.8%) were not vaccinated against influenza in 2019 and used social media. Participants that use social media were younger, secular, living in high-density agglomerations, and had lower influenza vaccination rates. The perceived influence and reliability of the information on social media about COVID-19 were generally similar to that on influenza.
Using social media is negatively linked to compliance with seasonal influenza vaccination in this study. A high proportion of non-compliant individuals can lead to increased consumption of healthcare and therefore overload the health services. This is particularly crucial with a concomitant outbreak, such as COVID-19. Healthcare professionals should use improved and targeted health communication campaigns with the aid of experts in social media. Targeted communication, based on socio-demographic factors and personalized social media usage, might increase influenza vaccination rates and compliance with other vaccines as well.