Tag: Facebook groups

Where Are All of the Vaccine Advocates?

With more outbreaks and increased talk of vaccine exemptions, one thing often gets lost.

Most people vaccinate and protect their kids because they understand that vaccines are safe, with few risks, and necessary.

Where Are All of the Vaccine Advocates?

Unfortunately, unlike the highly vocal minority of folks who are against vaccines, we rarely hear from vaccine advocates.

There are a lot of them out there though.

And we are finally starting to hear more about them!

“One woman took four of her kids for the M.M.R. that week.”

Amid a Measles Outbreak, an Ultra-Orthodox Nurse Fights Vaccination Fears in Her Community

Like the story of a nurse in Brooklyn who is educating vaccine-hesitant parents in the middle of a measles outbreak.

And how vaccine-hesitant parents in Oregon are attending vaccine workshops to learn about vaccines from medical professionals.

“The response has been overwhelmingly positive. In exit surveys, the vast majority of people who attend our workshops say they’ve decided to vaccinate their children as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.”

How do you get anti-vaxxers to vaccinate their kids? Talk to them — for hours.

Had you heard their stories yet?

How about the story about the mom who started the group South Carolina Parents for Vaccines?

“Nelson tries to counter bad information online with facts. But she also understands the value of in-person dialogue. She organized a class at a public library and advertised the event on mom forums.”

A Parent-To-Parent Campaign To Get Vaccine Rates Up

Did you know that a mom in Colorado, who started the group Community Immunity, put up a billboard to help raise immunization rates in her community?

Or that a group of parents formed Vaccinate California and helped support the passage of SB 277 and improved vaccination rates in California?

Did you know that there are similar immunization advocacy groups in Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington?

Other communities have Immunization Coalitions and Facebook groups to help answer questions and educate parents about vaccines.

Are you ready to join these vaccine advocates?

More on All of the Vaccine Advocates

Vaccines and Social Media

Believe it or not, social media isn’t all bad, not even when it comes to talking about vaccines.

Of course, social media does amplify the bad players and does seem to help scare many parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

But the anti-vaccine movement pre-dates social media. Social media simply helps a minority of folks who don’t trust vaccines become even more vocal.

Vaccines and Social Media

So that we are on the same page, do you know what folks are talking about when they mention social media?

Social media is the interactive parts of the Internet, so places like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Reddit, Snapchat, Pinterest, and YouTube, etc.

What are you going to find if you go on social media and want to talk about vaccines?

It depends.

“The semantic network of positive vaccine sentiment demonstrated greater cohesiveness in discourse compared to the larger, less-connected network of negative vaccine sentiment.”

Kang et al on Semantic Network Analysis of Vaccine Sentiment in Online Social Media

It depends on who your friends are, what groups you are in, and who you follow.

“Measures of information exposure derived from Twitter explained differences in coverage that were not explained by socioeconomic factors. Vaccine coverage was lower in states where safety concerns, misinformation, and conspiracies made up higher proportions of exposures, suggesting that negative representations of vaccines in the media may reflect or influence vaccine acceptance.”

Dunn et al on Mapping information exposure on social media to explain differences in HPV vaccine coverage in the United States.

And unfortunately, that likely influences whether or not your kids are going to be vaccinated and protected.

Social media can be a strong tool to combat vaccine hesitancy too though and can help educate folks that vaccines are safe, with few risks, and necessary.

“Given the ‘viral’ rates of anti-vaccination campaign dispersion through these same media, public health departments working in tandem with community groups, clinicians, hospitals and federal officials can leverage strong coalitions to prevent and treat infectious disease in their communities.”

Warren et al on Measles, social media and surveillance in Baltimore City

It is especially important that local and state health departments learn to use social media during outbreaks to educate the public on the importance of getting vaccinated and protected and combat propaganda and new conspiracy theories that sometimes arise when they don’t put out enough information about an outbreak.

“Our results indicate that users of Twitter (OR4.41, 95%CI: 1.43-13.60) and Facebook (OR 1.66, 95%CI: 1.01-2.72) as sources of health information were more likely to be vaccinated in comparison to users who do not use Twitter or Facebook as a source of health information.”

Ahmed et al on Social media use and influenza vaccine uptake among White and African American adults.

More than a few studies have shown that social media interventions improve vaccine acceptance.

Posting a #flushotselfie on social media can help others get vaccinated and protected too.
Posting a #flushotselfie on social media can help others get vaccinated and protected too.

Unfortunately, studies have shown that it is the folks who are against vaccines that are more likely to talk to others about vaccines on social media.

“To summarize the results, mothers who generally support childhood vaccinations are less likely to engage in communicative action about the issue, including information seeking, attending, forefending, permitting, forwarding, and sharing.”

McKeever et al on Silent Majority: Childhood Vaccinations and Antecedents to Communicative Action

So what should we do?

Instead of worrying about getting Larry Cook and a few other anti-vaccine heroes off social media, let’s get more vaccine advocates on social media!

“By targeting those who are in support of childhood vaccinations with simple, fact-based information that is easy to share online, media and health organizations could create a contagion effect on social media, which could help change perceptions, attitudes, and possibly even vaccine-related behaviors, and might have implications for years to come.”

McKeever et al on Silent Majority: Childhood Vaccinations and Antecedents to Communicative Action

And not just during outbreaks of measles!

More on Vaccines and Social Media

Is Larry Cook an International Threat to Pharma?

Larry Cook?

An International threat to Pharma?

Does Larry Cook really think that he needs bodyguards because Big Pharma is coming for him?
Does Larry Cook really think that he needs bodyguards because Big Pharma is coming for him?

Your first thought on seeing this was likely “Larry who?,” right?

Is Larry Cook an International Threat to Pharma?

To catch you up, Larry Cook is one of the newer heroes of the anti-vaccine movement.

He rose up post-SB 277 (the California vaccine law) on Facebook, with an anti-vaccine group that pushes stories that he claims are of kids who have died after they were vaccinated.

Larry Cook is not just about opposing vaccine mandates.

He has created a group to scare parents away from vaccinating their kids because he seems to believe that vaccines are dangerous and aren’t necessary.

Doing your vaccine research with Larry Cook is like learning about astronomy from a member of the Flat Earth Society.
Doing your vaccine research with Larry Cook is like learning about astronomy from a member of the Flat Earth Society.

Is he a threat to Pharma?

He’s only a threat to the folks who listen to him!

Vaccines are safe, with few risks, and with all of the outbreaks we are seeing, they are obviously very necessary.

Is Larry Cook an International Threat to Pharma?

When You Ask for Vaccine Advice in an Anti-Vaccine Facebook Group…

Can you guess what happens when you ask for advice about vaccines in an anti-vaccine Facebook Group?

Meningitis is not a side effect of vaccines.

What could go wrong?

When You Ask for Vaccine Advice in an Anti-Vaccine Facebook Group…

While most of us are used to hearing about meningococcal meningitis being a big risk for teens and young adults, it is important to realize that rates of disease are also high for infants, with a second peak during adolescence.

The highest rates of meningococcal disease occurs during infancy and adolescence.

So why don’t we routinely vaccinate infants against meningococcal disease?

Many countries do, including Australia and the UK, and in the United States, high risk infants are vaccinated against meningococcal disease.

If you were on the fence but were advised by your paediatrician (Australian spelling) to get vaccinated and protected because a child in your town had just died, would you get vaccinated?

Or would you listen to folks in an anti-vaccine Facebook group who tried to convince you that meningitis was actually a side effect of getting vaccinated?

Folks who insist that deaths from vaccine-preventable disease aren’t real and that instead, they are actually vaccine-injuries?

We know what happens when you ask for vaccine advice in an anti-vaccine Facebook group. The members push their propaganda to scare you away from vaccinating and protecting your kids.

Don’t listen to them. Vaccines are safe and necessary.

More on When You Ask for Vaccine Advice in an Anti-Vaccine Facebook Group…

Why Would Vaccines Be Designed to Kill People?

If you are playing devil’s advocate with anti-vaccine folks, trying to figure out how they think, it isn’t a terrible question.

Remember, many anti-vaccine folks think that vaccines never work and that they always cause injuries – to everyone that gets them.

Why Would Vaccines Be Designed to Kill People?

We can start with Larry Cook‘s “answer,” which was in the form of another question:

“Why do doctors and medical examiners deny vaccine injury and death?”

Larry Cook

Wait, do doctors and medical examiners deny vaccine injury and death?

Uh, no they don’t.

They are often skeptical that each and everything that happens after someone gets a vaccine, even if it is months or years later, is a vaccine injury though. But we do know that although rare, vaccine injuries are real and can sometimes be life-threatening.

But why would vaccines actually be designed to kill people?

Makes sense, right?

  1. Make vaccines that kill people.
  2. ?
  3. Profit.

Actually, it doesn’t make any sense, does it?

Vaccine-preventable diseases kill people. In the pre-vaccine era, they killed a lot more people.

If you want to control the population or make life-long customers, why not just let them get smallpox, measles, chicken pox, hepatitis B, and HPV?

“Results revealed a significant negative relationship between anti-vaccine conspiracy beliefs and vaccination intentions. This effect was mediated by the perceived dangers of vaccines, and feelings of powerlessness, disillusionment and mistrust in authorities.”

Jolley et al on The Effects of Anti-Vaccine Conspiracy Theories on Vaccination Intentions

And if you wanted to do that, you could just push a lot of conspiracy theories about vaccines to scare folks away from getting vaccinated…

So, could bacteria and viruses be controlling the minds of these disease-friendly, influential anti-vaccine folks, helping to make sure people are intentionally unvaccinated, so that they can spread among us more easily?

Since I’m too skeptical to go down that rabbit hole, it is probably a safer bet to think that most are just doing it to sell supplements in their stores, get commissions from pushing online seminars, and ads from folks visiting their sites.

“Conspiracy beliefs are therefore associated with common motivations that drive intergroup conflict. Two social motivations in particular are relevant for conspiracy thinking. The first motivation is to uphold a strong ingroup identity, which increases perceivers’ sense‐making motivation when they believe their group is under threat by outside forces. That is, people worry about possible conspiracies only when they feel strongly connected with, and hence care about, the prospective victims of these conspiracies. The second social motivation is to protect against a coalition or outgroup suspected to be hostile”

van Prooijen et al on Belief in conspiracy theories: Basic principles of an emerging research domain

Will any of this help anti-vaccine folks see that these anti-vaccine conspiracy theories aren’t true?

Unfortunately, it probably won’t.

Like vaccine-injury stories, conspiracy theories are one of the things that hold up, and hold together, the modern anti-vaccine movement.

More on Why Would Vaccines Be Designed to Kill People?

Believe It or Not, Chicken Pox Parties Are Still a Thing

Do you remember having chicken pox?

Oh boy, I sure do!

I was about six or seven years old and it was bad. Still, I’m not sure if I remember because I had such a bad case or because it made me miss Halloween that year.

It was almost certainly both, as I remember being covered in spots from head to toe.

What I don’t recall is having many visitors. Why didn’t my mom throw me a chicken pox party!

I also don’t remember going to a chicken pox party to get sick.

Believe It or Not, Chicken Pox Parties Are Still a Thing

Whether or not chicken pox parties were ever that popular, the approval of the chicken pox vaccine in 1995 should have put an end to the practice.

After all, why intentionally expose your child to a potentially life-threatening disease, when a safe and effective vaccine is readily available?

“Chickenpox (varicella) is generally a much milder illness in children than in adults, with considerably lower rates of severe disease and death. Varicella is also virtually universal in many populations, meaning that very few individuals escape infection over a lifetime. Thus, a sound logic underlies the idea of chickenpox parties, at which susceptible children can acquire the contagious causative pathogen, varicella zoster virus (VZV), from their peers. However, chickenpox is not without risks, even for children of this age; severe, complicated, and occasionally fatal varicella occur in previously healthy children, as well as the immunocompromised (who are at very considerable risk).”

Hambleton et al on Chickenpox Party or Varicella Vaccine?

Most folks understand that. They get their kids vaccinated and have helped get chicken pox under very good control, with outbreaks of chicken pox declining over 95%.

“Each year, more than 3.5 million cases of varicella, 9,000 hospitalizations, and 100 deaths are prevented by varicella vaccination in the United States”

CDC on Monitoring the Impact of Varicella Vaccination

Apparently, not everyone has gotten the message though.

Remember when CPS had to investigate the mom who was having chicken pox parties in Plano, Texas a few years ago?

“On the page, parents post where they live and ask if anyone with a child who has the chicken pox would be willing to send saliva, infected lollipops or clothing through the mail.”

CBS 5 Investigates mail order diseases

Or when anti-vaccine folks were selling and mailing lollipops contaminated with chicken pox to folks so that they could skip the trouble of finding a chicken pox party?

And then there’s that time that a family served chicken pox contaminated punch at their chicken pox party. Oh wait, that was The Simpsons

Chicken pox party - The Simpsons did it.
Chicken pox party – The Simpsons did it in the Milhouse of Sand and Fog episode in Season 17.

So what are they up to now?

Folks are still advertising chicken pox parties in anti-vaccine Facebook groups.
Folks are still advertising chicken pox parties in anti-vaccine Facebook groups.

More of the same…

Does she know that the chicken pox vaccine likely decreases your risk of getting shingles later in life?
Does she know that the chicken pox vaccine likely decreases your risk of getting shingles later in life?

Apparently, there are still plenty of folks looking for chicken pox parties to infect their kids.

Why?

It is easy to see a lot of cognitive biases at play in the decision to host or bring a child to a chicken pox party, including ambiguity aversion (prefer what they think are the known risks of getting the disease), bandwagoning (they think everyone else is doing it, because in their echo chambers of anti-vaccine propaganda, everyone might), and optimism bias, etc.

There is also a very poor perception of risks, as the risks from a natural chicken pox infection are far, far greater than any risk from the vaccine.

Don't forget to tent!!!
Don’t forget to tent and share breath!!!

In bigger news, Facebook has groups who’s mission is “finding pox,” so that parents can get their kids sick!

The mission of PX Colorado is finding pox!
The mission of PX Colorado is finding pox!

How many other PoX type groups are there on Facebook?

How many other parents are intentionally not vaccinating their kids and intentionally exposing them to chicken pox?

Do any of them quarantine or isolate their kids for 10 to 21 days after the chicken pox party, so as to not expose anyone who is too young to be vaccinated, too young to be fully vaccinated, or has a true medical exemption to getting vaccinated, including those who are immunocompromised?

Do they understand the consequences of having these pox parties?

The latest chicken pox party hostess is apparently a nurse - at least for now...
The latest chicken pox party hostess is apparently a nurse – at least for now…

Of course, an investigation from CPS, the health department, or a medical board isn’t the most serious consequence that should discourage folks from hosting or attending a chicken pox party.

Chicken pox can be a serious, even life-threatening infection. Sure, many kids just get a mild case, but others get more serious cases and have bad complications, including skin infections, encephalitis, sepsis, or stroke.

And some people do still die from chicken pox, which is supposed to be a mild, childhood illness.

“This report describes a varicella death in an unvaccinated, previously healthy adolescent aged 15 years.”

Varicella Death of an Unvaccinated, Previously Healthy Adolescent — Ohio, 2009

Fortunately, these deaths have been nearly eliminated thanks to the chicken pox vaccine.

And that’s why parents who are on a mission for “finding pox” should rethink things and switch to a mission to get their kids vaccinated and protected.

More on Chicken Pox Parties

Anti-Vaccine Censorship on Facebook

If you ever wander into a holistic parenting group or a vaccine group that claims to offer “both sides” to educate folks about vaccines, you will, or at least you should, quickly notice that all of the posts and replies sound eerily alike.

This toddler might end up with tetanus because of bad information in this anti-vaccine group.
This toddler might end up with tetanus because of bad advice in this anti-vaccine group.

If a parent asks about a tetanus shot for their child’s wound in one of these groups, no one will suggest that they rush to their pediatrician and get it.

The only disagreements you might see are whether they should treat the wound with colloidal silver, black salve, garlic, urine, activated charcoal, tea tree oil, raw honey, essential oils, or some other non-evidence based therapy.

Anti-Vaccine Censorship

It is no accident that folks get uniform advice against vaccines in these so-called vaccine “education” groups.

The comment that got me banned from posting on Phyicians for Informed Consent.
As often happens on anti-vaccine sites, my comment about tetanus shots was quickly deleted and I was banned from posting further messages.

Anyone who goes against the “vaccines are dangerous” mantra of these groups typically has their comments quickly deleted and gets banned from the group.

Why?

“Echo chambers abound for many other conditions which are not medically recognised, from chronic Lyme disease to electromagnetic hypersensitivity. But perhaps most worrisome is the advance of anti-vaccine narratives across the web. The explosion of dubious sources has allowed them to propagate wildly, undeterred by debunking in the popular press. We might take the current drastic fall in HPV vaccine uptake in Ireland, driven by anti-vaccine groups like REGRET, despite its life-saving efficacy. While organisations including the Health Service Executive have valiantly tried to counter these myths, these claims are perpetuated across social media with little to stop them.”

Echo chambers are dangerous – we must try to break free of our online bubbles

To create an echo chamber of anti-vaccine myths and propaganda and help reinforce all of their anti-vaccine beliefs. And of course, to help scare parents who might be on the fence about vaccines.

After all, it is easier to feel confident in your decisions when you think that everyone else is doing the same thing. Of course they aren’t though. The great majority of people vaccinate and protect their kids.

It is only in these echo chambers of anti-vaccine misinformation that anyone would think that it would be okay to not get an unvaccinated toddler proper treatment for a cut, to skip a rabies shot after exposure to a rabid bat, or to not get travel vaccines before visiting high risk areas of the world.

That’s the power of confirmation bias.

And whether or not you realize it, confirmation bias is likely one of the reasons that you aren’t vaccinating and protecting your kids.

That’s why you need to step out of these echo chambers if you want to understand that vaccines are safe and necessary.

What to Know About Anti-Vaccine Censorhip

Anti-vaccine groups routinely censor, ban, and block messages from people who correct misinformation about vaccines and vaccine-preventable diseases.

More on Anti-Vaccine Censorship