Facebook Posts Help Facilitate Belief that HPV Vaccine is Dangerous to Health

When examining the percentage of posts that made the vaccine seem more dangerous, less dangerous, or neither, Luisi found nearly 40% of Facebook posts about the HPV vaccine amplified a perceived risk.

After studying 6500 public posts regarding the topic of human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine on Facebook from 2006 to 2016, Monique Luisi, assistant professor in the University of Missouri School of Journalism, suggests that the negative trend on the website may cause people to develop a false perception of the health risk of the vaccine.

When examining the percentage of posts that made the vaccine seem more dangerous, less dangerous, or neither, Luisi found nearly 40% of Facebook posts about the HPV vaccine amplified a perceived risk, and the data suggest these posts had momentum over time, according to the University of Missouri article.

“We should not assume that only the disease is perceived as a risk, but when research supports it, that medical treatments and interventions might unfortunately also be perceived as risks,” Luisi said in a press release. “It’s more likely that people are going to see things on social media, particularly on Facebook, that are not only negative about the HPV vaccine, but will also suggest the HPV vaccine could be harmful. It amplifies the fear that people may have about the vaccine, and we see that posts that amplify fear are more likely to trend than those that don’t.”

Luisi suggests the spread of this negative information may lead to false perceptions regarding the vaccine, so people should consult their physician or health care provider before making an informed decision.

“Facebook remains a very popular social media platform for adult audiences, which necessitates action to address HPV vaccine risk messages,” Luisi said in a press release. “People are going to see what they are going to see on social media, so it’s important to not only take what you see on social media, but also talk to a doctor or health care provider. Just because it’s trending doesn’t mean it’s true.”

Further, Luisi noted that research should continue to address the perception of vaccine safety where the vaccine is perceived as a greater health threat than the virus or disease it prevents. She added that her study could help inform officials for the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine roll out and distribution.

“As the COVID-19 vaccine is being rolled out, people are likely going to see a lot of negative information, and that negative information will be what trends on social media,” Luisi said in a press release. “But, if the public can anticipate this negative information, it will be interesting to see if that will that make them less sensitive to the perceived risk of the vaccine.”

REFERENCE

Facebook posts help facilitate belief that HPV vaccine is dangerous to health. University of Missouri. https://showme.missouri.edu/2021/facebook-posts-help-facilitate-belief-that-hpv-vaccine-is-dangerous-to-health/. Published January 5, 2021. Accessed January 7, 2021.