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Study: Twitter Reliable Source for Vaccination Information

May 30, 2013
by Gabriel Perna
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According to new research from the University of Texas at Austin, Twitter is not only a popular source for receiving and sharing new information about vaccines, but it can also be a reliable one as well.

The researchers analyzed 9,510 vaccination-related tweets from one week in January, 2012, in an attempt to determine the most popular and influential messages on the micro-blogging website. Of those 9,510 tweets, 2,580 received enagement, in the form of reposting and sharing. They were then coded for frequency of sharing, tone toward vaccinations, links to sources (e.g., news outlets, advocacy groups, or healthcare providers), and whether the claims being made in each tweet were scientifically substantiated.

What the researchers founds was of those 2,580 tweets, 33 percent carried a positive tone on vaccinations, 54 percent were neutral, and 13 percent were negative. More importantly, of the 14 percent of tweets that contained medical information, more than two-thirds offered content substantiated by scientific research.

"In this sample, it appears that Twitter users share mostly reputable information and sources while actively mobilizing others to seek reliable health information. Results of the snapshot can help explain what social media content patients consume and respond to, as well as help determine directions for educational campaigns,” the authors wrote in the research, which appears in a recent issue of the American Journal of Infection Control.

The researchers found that most messages centered around a potential children’s malaria vaccine, development of the NeuVax E-75 vaccine for breast cancer, the effectiveness of a herpes vaccine in women, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recommendation of a human papilloma virus vaccination for boys, potential approval for a lung cancer vaccine, and a blog post discrediting vaccine-autism connections.

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