Web-based social media intervention can positively influence parental vaccine behaviors

shutterstock_80124934Pregnant women, who received vaccine information through an interactive website monitored by a clinical expert, were more likely to vaccinate their children than those who received usual care alone, according to a Kaiser Permanente study published in the journal Pediatrics.

The current research builds upon survey knowledge; a previous Pediatrics study (2011) that found 10 to 15 percent of parents chose to delay or refuse one or more vaccines for their children; and a Kaiser Permanente study in JAMA (2013) that found an increasing number of parents were choosing to delay or refuse one or more vaccines for their children.

This most recent Kaiser Permanente study, conducted in Colorado, examined the impact of a web-based intervention on the vaccination rates of 888 Colorado infants.

“The results of this study suggest websites with interactive components have the potential to complement face-to-face clinical interactions,” said Jason Glanz, PhD, lead study author and senior investigator at the Kaiser Permanente Colorado Institute for Health Research. “It’s well known that patients use the internet to obtain health care information. Clinicians can combat misinformation by giving patients access to websites that are clinically accurate, engaging and offer ways to communicate with experts and other patients about their concerns.”

From 2013-16, Glanz and his colleagues enrolled 888 pregnant women in the study. Kaiser Permanente researchers created a website that presented easy-to-understand information on the risks and benefits of vaccination, recommended vaccination schedules, vaccine ingredients and vaccine laws. In addition to vaccine information, the interactive website had an expert-moderated blog, discussion forum, chat room and “Ask a Question” portal where parents could ask experts questions about vaccines.

Participants were randomly assigned to three study groups: website with vaccine information and interactive social media components (or VSM); website with vaccine information (or VI); or usual care only (UC). Infants of study participants were followed from birth to age 200 days to assess vaccination rates for early childhood vaccines.

Infants of parents in the VSM arm were about twice as likely to be up-to-date on all recommended infant vaccines than infants in the UC arm. Up-to-date status was not statistically different between VI and UC arms, or between the VSM and VI arms.

According to Glanz, the study’s results also have implications for when vaccine information is presented to parents. This type of information is typically offered after birth, during well-child checkups. Because parents often begin researching vaccinations during pregnancy, the study suggests the information seems to be effective when presented before a child is born.

This study was funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and conducted by researchers at the Kaiser Permanente Colorado Institute for Health Research, in partnership with researchers at the Colorado School of Public Health at the University of Colorado Denver; the Department of Pediatrics, School of Medicine, University of Colorado; Children’s Hospital Colorado; and the Hubert Department of Global Health, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University.

Source: Kaiser Permanente