The popular video-sharing site YouTube has become a breeding ground for a growing anti-vaccination movement, according to a new study.
Researchers from the University of Toronto say they've uncovered widespread misinformation in vaccination-related videos on YouTube, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Toronto researchers Dr. Kumanan Wilson and Dr. Jennifer Keelan analyzed 153 videos about vaccination and immunization on YouTube, and found that more than half of the videos portrayed childhood, HPV, flu and other vaccinations negatively or ambiguously.
Of those videos, 45 percent contained messages that contradict the 2006 Canadian Immunization Guide, which provides vaccination recommendations similar to those offered by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the study said.
“YouTube is increasingly a resource people consult for health information, including vaccination,” said Keelan, an assistant professor in U of T’s Department of Public Health Sciences, in a news release. “Our study shows that a significant amount of immunization content on YouTube contradicts the best scientific evidence at large. From a public health perspective, this is very concerning.”
The research team also found that the anti-vaccination videos containing the most provocative information received more views and better ratings by YouTube users than those videos that portray immunizations in a positive light.
“Health care professionals need to be aware that individuals critical of immunization are using YouTube to communicate their viewpoints and that patients may be obtaining information from these videos,” said Wilson, senior author and an associate professor with U of T’s Department of Medicine. “YouTube users also need to be aware of this, so they can filter information from the site accordingly.
“The findings also indicate that public health officials should consider how to effectively communicate their viewpoints through Internet video portals,” Wilson said in the news release.