'Anti-vaxxers' gain traction against HPV vaccine on Facebook, study shows

social media
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

One of the biggest social media sites—Facebook—has allowed "anti-vaxxers" to gain a stronger voice against the use of the human papillomavirus, or HPV, vaccine, according to a new study from a media expert at the University of Missouri.

Monique Luisi, an assistant professor in the Missouri School of Journalism, studied more than 6,500 public HPV vaccine-related posts on Facebook over the first 10 years since the vaccine was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2006. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that approximately 80 million Americans are infected with HPV, and 14 million new cases occur annually. HPV is also associated with and six types of cancer in men and women, including cervical and .

Despite the vaccine's reported benefits of preventing multiple cancers and genital warts, Luisi said 45% of the posts she identified displayed a negative tone toward people getting the vaccine. In addition, over the course of a decade, Luisi identified a negative trend occurring on Facebook toward how people perceive the vaccine—including its safety, effectiveness and whether its use leads to the encouragement of sexual behavior.

"The representation of the HPV vaccine has not only worsened, but negative posts toward the HPV have received more , and evidence shows that these negative posts have generated momentum for other related negative posts," Luisi said. "It would be one thing if we only saw just the negative information out there. But there's also negative momentum carried by these posts, and if are encouraging more people to post other negative content, then we can predict how the conversation is going to go and that people are also being influenced by the messages they see."

Luisi said her next step for this research will be to study the implications this content has on parents and guardians as decision-makers. She said it's important for people to recognize the power of sharing content on social media.

"People talk about a lot of things on social media," she said. "While someone might not be directly involved in a conversation on a particular topic, they still might see that conversation while scrolling through their social media. Therefore, I think it's important to think about intent when sharing content. Even the simple act of sharing—intentional or unintentional—can influence others."

More information: Monique L.R. Luisi, From bad to worse: The representation of the HPV vaccine Facebook, Vaccine (2020). DOI: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2020.05.016

Journal information: Vaccine

Citation: 'Anti-vaxxers' gain traction against HPV vaccine on Facebook, study shows (2020, July 8) retrieved 5 December 2023 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2020-07-anti-vaxxers-gain-traction-hpv-vaccine.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Explore further

Social media messages influence parents about HPV


Feedback to editors