'Half of all parents with small children have been exposed to misinformation about vaccines on social media, according to a new report that finds the most common reason not to vaccinate is the fear of side-effects.
“We need to counteract health misinformation online and via social media,” said Shirley Cramer, the chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), which published the report.
“We call on the social media giants and the platforms to look at what they could do around this because it is a breeding ground for misleading information and negative messaging. There could be some really negative and dangerous consequences. They need to take some responsibility.”
“Anti-vaxx” groups target the parents of new babies via social media, posting stories claiming babies have died or been harmed by vaccination. A US group called Stop Mandatory Vaccination, run by Larry Cook, was censured by the UK’s advertising watchdog in November over a paid-for Facebook post, after a complaint by the mother of a young baby in the UK.
“Parents, not only can any vaccine given at any age kill your child, but if this unthinkable tragedy does occur, doctors will dismiss it as ‘sudden infant death syndrome’ (Sids),” ran the post, which showed a picture of a baby with his eyes closed with his apparent name and date of birth – and death. It urged readers to join the Facebook group.
In response to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), the anti-vaxx group said it “targeted users with an interest in parenting because they intended to cause parents some concern before choosing to vaccinate their children”.
The ASA ruled that the post was misleading advertising and likely to cause fear and distress, particularly to parents seeking factual information about the risks of vaccinating their children.'
Read more: Anti-vaxxers spread misinformation on social media – report