Study: Anti-vaxxers on Facebook Negatively Affect People’s Views on HPV Vaccine

Anti-HPV vaccination posts on Facebook may augment vaccine hesitancy, according to a study which appeared in the journal Vaccine.

In this study, researchers assessed a data sample comprised of over 6,500 public HPV-vaccine related posts published between June 8, 2006 and June 8, 2016 – the 10 years following the FDA’s first HPV vaccine approval. They evaluated post characteristics, engagement, and health belief models (HBM) using Krippendorf’s alpha range.

The Anti-Vaxxer Community Wields Influence

Following analysis, the results showed that barriers to HPV vaccinations appeared more often in posts than benefits (47.1% vs. 19.8%). The researchers observed that the tone towards the vaccine was negative in 45% of posts and the average sample carried a negative sentient about the vaccine (M=-0.15, SD=0.851). Moreover, the researchers observed that the post with the strongest engagement (11,000 reactions, 6,100 comments, and 329,000 shares) was anti-HPV vaccine, and overall negative posts boasted notably higher engagement.

 

“Facebook posts about the HPV vaccine were mostly negative with a frequent focus on barriers to vaccination. Time effects suggest that anti-HPV vaccine posts have encouraged more anti-HPV vaccine posts,” the research authors wrote in conclusion.

They added that, “research should continue to address the influence of time. The influence of messages that are pro-HPV vaccine, but perhaps are negative in tone, address barriers, and/or presented by individual stakeholders, should be tested inside and outside of social media channels.”