To be vaccinated or not – how does the Internet influence a pregnant woman’s decision?


Do you go online for your health-related questions? You are
not alone! More and more people are using the Internet to
gather medical information. Lately, there has been debate
about the safety of vaccines in online media. Vaccines protect
us from infectious diseases and save millions of lives every
year. Vaccination during pregnancy protects newborn babies
as well. But how does online media influence a pregnant
woman’s opinion about vaccination? Here, we examined the
online media about two maternal vaccinations: whooping
cough (pertussis), and the flu (influenza). The majority of
the articles supported both vaccines. Most pertussis articles
used real-life cases and focused on protecting the baby.
The influenza articles focused on protecting the mother, or
both the mother and the baby. Then, we surveyed pregnant
women and health care providers. Their opinions were
similar to those expressed in the articles. Our results may
explain why more women are receiving pertussis vaccine
compared to influenza.
Vaccines are one of the greatest health developments
of modern medicine. Thanks to widespread vaccination
coverage, today many infectious diseases are under control.
Vaccines have been so successful that people nowadays are
often unaware of the risks of these serious (and previously
devastating) diseases. As a result, today some people
debate if vaccines are safe and efficient. They are, but online
media allows negative and inaccurate information to reach
many people -and this influences their vaccination decisionmaking. The decrease in vaccine confidence is a major
concern for global health. This loss of trust in vaccines and
the refusal to vaccinate threatens our progress in tackling
many preventable diseases.
Pertussis (whooping cough) and influenza (flu) are highly
contagious respiratory infections. They can be very
dangerous – even deadly – for high-risk groups like newborn
babies. Luckily, vaccination during pregnancy is an efficient
and safe way to protect the mother and the baby from these
diseases. A vaccinated mother passes immunity to the fetus,
which then protects the baby when it is born. (Fig. 1) Despite
their availability and life-saving value, the vaccination rate
among pregnant women remains less than ideal. This can
lead to deadly cases of both diseases in newborn babies. Is
online media influencing mothers’ decisions about receiving
these vaccines? To find out, we studied online articles
about maternal pertussis and influenza vaccines, and their
influence on women’s decision-making.

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