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Anti-vaccine sentiment surging on Twitter: Study

Wednesday - October 4, 2017 1:38 pm , Category : SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

New York Oct 4 (IANS) People living in the US who believe that vaccines cause autism or other developmental disorders are increasingly using Twitter to spread anti-vaccine sentiment in the country researchers have found.



For two decades anti-vaccine activists in the US have suggested that certain vaccines can lead to autism. There has been a surge in the tweets falsely linking life-saving vaccines to autism in recent years.

However these Twitter posts are not a representative sample of overall public opinion but rather a pulse of the level of anti-vaccine activism in an area the researchers said.

In the study affluent states such as California Connecticut Massachusetts New York and Pennsylvania as well as regions with a large number of new mothers were found to be most likely as the hubs of negative tweets.

"The debate online is far from over. There is still a very vocal group of people out there who are opposed to vaccines " said Chris Vargo Assistant Professor at University of Colorado-Boulder US.

"Half of the talk online that we observed about vaccines was negative " Vargo added.

For the study published in the journal Social Science and Medicine the team created a machine-learning algorithm to examine more than a half-million tweets from around the country between 2009 and 2015.

Between 2010 and 2015 the study found that anti-vaccine tweets became overall more common nationwide.

As the number of households that made over $200 000 annually increased or the number of women who had delivered a baby in the past 12 months increased so did the amount of anti-vaccine tweets in a particular region.

Anti-vaccine tweet volume increased with news coverage of vaccine-related events.

"Monitoring anti-vaccination beliefs on Twitter can uncover vaccine-related concerns and misconceptions serve as an indicator of shifts in public opinion and equip pediatricians to refute anti-vaccine arguments " Vargo noted.

--IANS
rt/rn