November 5, 2017

Social media can improve parents' attitudes toward vaccines

Findings from Kaiser Permanente study published in journal Pediatrics.

DENVER — Pregnant 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 today 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.”

photo of Jason Glanz, PhD
Jason Glanz, PhD

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 Anschutz; 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.

Additional study authors include: Nicole M. Wagner, MPH; Komal J. Narwaney, MPH, PhD; Courtney R. Kraus, MSPH; Jo Ann Shoup, MSW, MS, PhD; Stanley Xu, PhD; Sean T. O’Leary, MPH, MD; Saad B. Omer, MBBS, MPH, PhD; Kathy S. Gleason, PhD; and Matthew F. Daley, MD.

About the Kaiser Permanente Colorado Institute for Health Research

Now in its 25th year, Kaiser Permanente Colorado’s Institute for Health Research (IHR) focuses on epidemiologic, behavioral, and health services research to improve the health and medical care of Kaiser Permanente members and the communities it serves. The IHR publishes and disseminates research to improve prevention and treatment of chronic conditions such as diabetes,  mental health conditions, medication adherence, pediatric vaccination rates, and opioid use. The IHR is staffed by more than 120 physicians and health care employees who are dedicated to conducting research that can be translated into clinical practice, health promotion, and policies to influence the health of all Coloradans.

About Kaiser Permanente

Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping shape the future of health care. We are recognized as one of America’s leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans. Founded in 1945, Kaiser Permanente has a mission to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. We currently serve more than 11.8 million members in eight states and the District of Columbia. Care for members and patients is focused on their total health and guided by their personal Permanente Medical Group physicians, specialists and team of caregivers. Our expert and caring medical teams are empowered and supported by industry-leading technology advances and tools for health promotion, disease prevention, state-of-the-art care delivery and world-class chronic disease management. Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to care innovations, clinical research, health education and the support of community health.