“It’s not all about autism”: Analysing anti-vaccination Facebook opinions

An anti-vax concept image to illustrate anti-vaccination facebook opinions
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“It’s not all about autism“, according to new research from the University of Pittsburgh Center for Research on Media, Technology, and Health on anti-vaccination Facebook opinions.

The analysis of anti-vaccination Facebook opinions based on messages each commenter had publicly posted in the previous two years led the team to divide the types of messages into four subgroups.

The ‘sub-groups’ of anti-vaccination Facebook opinions

The team categorised these as:

•”Trust,” which emphasized suspicion of the scientific community and concerns about personal liberty;
•”Alternatives,” which focused on chemicals in vaccines and the use of homeopathic remedies instead of vaccination;
•”Safety,” which focused on perceived risks and concerns about vaccination being immoral; and
•”Conspiracy,” which suggested that the government and other entities hide information that this subgroup believes to be facts, including that the polio virus does not exist.

Hoffman, said: “The presence of these distinct subgroups cautions against a blanket approach to public health messages that encourage vaccination. For example, telling someone in the ‘trust’ subgroup that vaccines don’t cause autism may alienate them because that isn’t their concern to begin with.”

Hoffman continued: “Instead, it may be more effective to find common ground and deliver tailored messages related to trust and the perception mandatory vaccination threatens their ability to make decisions for their child.”

Understanding and respecting anti-vaccination perspectives

The senior author of the analysis, Brian Primack, M.D., Ph.D., director of Pitt’s Center for Research on Media, Technology, and Health, and dean of the Pitt Honors College, commented: “If we dismiss anybody who has an opposing view, we’re giving up an opportunity to understand them and come to a common ground. That’s what our research is about. We want to understand vaccine-hesitant parents in order to give clinicians the opportunity to optimally and respectfully communicate with them about the importance of immunization.”

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