YouTube breeding ground for anti-vaccination views

December 5, 2007

As cold and flu season hits this year amid growing debate over the necessity of vaccinations, University of Toronto researchers have uncovered widespread misinformation in related videos on YouTube.

In the first-ever study of its kind, U of T researchers Dr. Kumanan Wilson and Dr. Jennifer Keelan analyzed 153 videos about vaccination and immunization on YouTube, a popular online video-sharing site. Researchers found that more than half of the videos portrayed childhood, HPV, flu and other vaccinations negatively or ambiguously.

Of those videos, a staggering 45 per cent contained messages that contradict the 2006 Canadian Immunization Guide, which provides national guidelines for immunization practices. The Canadian recommendations are similar to guidelines from the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“YouTube is increasingly a resource people consult for health information, including vaccination,” says first author Keelan, an assistant professor in U of T’s Department of Public Health Sciences. “Our study shows that a significant amount of immunization content on YouTube contradicts the best scientific evidence at large. From a public health perspective, this is very concerning.”

The research team also found that videos skeptical of vaccinations – many of them highly provocative and powerful – received more views and better ratings by YouTube users than those videos that portray immunizations in a positive light.

“Health care professionals need to be aware that individuals critical of immunization are using YouTube to communicate their viewpoints and that patients may be obtaining information from these videos” says Wilson, senior author and an associate professor with U of T’s Department of Medicine. “YouTube users also need to be aware of this, so they can filter information from the site accordingly.”

“The findings also indicate that public health officials should consider how to effectively communicate their viewpoints through Internet video portals,” Wilson says.

Source: University of Toronto

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1 / 5 (1) Dec 05, 2007
Why on earth should health care professionals give a damn about vaccination skeptics airing their views on youtube - any more than atheists should give a damn about believers airing their views in churches?

Now, if we were to learn that the skeptics were picketing health centres with their views, like a weird version of the anti-abortion activists, I could see the point of concern, but youtube is free speech terrain, what the hell are they playing at?
not rated yet Dec 09, 2007
The main reason that spreading disinformation about vaccines is so particularly troubling is that in order for a vaccine to eradicate a disease a very high percentage of the population needs to be vaccinated. If people had this level of anti-vaccine paranoia back in the days of small-pox, it would never have been eradicated. The anti-vaccination movement is not only horribly misguided and misinformed, it is dangerous in that if there were to be an epidemic of a disease easily controlled by vaccines having a pool of people who refuse vaccinations would keep this disease alive. We're lucky to live in times in which polio has practically been eradicated (thanks to vaccines) but there are parts of the world where it lingers on and if it ever makes a comeback I hope the anti-vaccination proponents realize that their decisions affect not only themselves but public safety.

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