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Challenging misinformation about vaccinations is vital to boost uptake, RCN says

College responds to report that suggests social media spreads ‘dangerous’ information

College responds to report that suggests social media spreads ‘dangerous’ information


Many parents say they are exposed to negative messages about vaccines online.
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Challenging online misinformation about vaccinations is vital to reverse the decline in their uptake, the RCN has warned.

The college’s statement follows a report that suggests social media is spreading misleading and dangerous information to the public about vaccines.

Negative messages

The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) document, Moving the Needle, includes results from a survey of more than 2,500 UK parents in May 2018.

Two out of five parents (41%) said they are often or sometimes exposed to negative messages about vaccines in social media.

This increased to one in two (50%) among parents with children under five years old.

The RSPH report says social media is a ‘breeding ground for misleading information and negative messaging around vaccination’.

Protecting the public

RCN professional lead for public health Helen Donovan said challenging misinformation was vital to reverse the decline in vaccination uptake and protect the public.

‘In 2017 the UK was declared free of endemic measles, with just 259 lab-confirmed cases.

‘But last year saw 913 confirmed cases of this potentially fatal yet entirely preventable disease – a three-fold increase. This has been exacerbated by myths propagated largely online.

‘Similarly, flu vaccination coverage over the 2017-18 season was the lowest it has been since 2011, and last year saw a serious flu outbreak. This year the rates are lower, but still a cause for concern.’

Trust in nurses

Around three-quarters of parents surveyed by the RSPH said they valued the advice of health visitors and midwives regarding vaccination.

This view was echoed by the 216 healthcare practitioners who were surveyed for the report, including 154 nurses. A total of 82% agreed there is a high degree of trust in the profession from the public regarding vaccinations.


Read the Royal Society for Public Health report


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