With cold and flu lurking in the atmosphere amidst growing debate over the need of vaccinations, researchers at University Of Toronto have found that a large number of videos on the topic posted on YouTube preached anti-vaccination views.
The first ever study of its kind was led by Dr. Kumanan Wilson, an associate professor with U of T's Department of Medicine and Dr. Jennifer Keelan, an assistant professor in U of T's Department of Public Health Sciences.
Almost 153 videos about vaccination and immunization on YouTube were examined by the researchers. It was found that more than half of the videos portrayed childhood, HPV, flu and other vaccinations negatively or ambiguously. Amongst these, a stunning. 45 per cent consisted of messages contradicting the 2006 Canadian Immunization Guide, which provides national guidelines for immunization practices.
The Canadian recommendations are similar to guidelines from the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "YouTube is increasingly a resource people consult for health information, including vaccination," said Keelan.
He added: "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." It was also found that videos that were skeptical of vaccinations, of which many were overtly provocative and powerful, got more hits and views and even better ratings by the users of YouTube than videos portraying 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. He also added: "YouTube users also need to be aware of this, so they can filter information from the site accordingly."