In 2019, the Philippines topped the world in Internet usage on a desktop or laptop computer, according to social media management platform Hootsuite. Filipinos spend 10 hours and two minutes online on average with nearly 99% of users on one type of social media platform at least, according to a report by Rappler.
With these statistics, it comes as no surprise that misinformation and false news are easily spread through social media, particularly when it comes to the topic of vaccines and disease prevention. Thankfully, companies are stepping up to address this problem, including Facebook and Pinterest, which have come up with separate strategies to educate parents on vaccination.
On Facebook, users will see a pop-up window appear on screen every time they search for vaccine-related information, visit vaccine-related Facebook groups and pages, or tap a vaccine-related hashtag. This will also reflect on Instagram (also owned by Facebook), particularly when tapping on or searching for vaccine-related hashtags.
The pop-up window will direct users to vaccine-related information on the websites of Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) or World Health Organization (WHO).
Facebook also said that “any anti-vaccine related group or page will no longer be promoted by ads and will be less prominent in search findings.”
Meanwhile, another social media platform, Pinterest, announced that searches for vaccine-related words like “measles” and vaccine safety will only generate results from reputable health institutions like the WHO. The ‘pins’ won’t display comments, according to a CNN report.
For parents who read news and get their information from social media, these strategies can help ease their minds and find comfort that they can access evidence-based information.
In January 2019, the WHO released its annual list of global health threats and vaccine hesitancy was included in the list for the first time. Public health experts all over the world have pointed to anti-vaccination content online as one of the top reasons fewer people are getting vaccinated, which have led to measles outbreaks and other diseases. In the Philippines, vaccination rates have gone down, and it has partly been attributed to the public scare over the anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia, which was recalled in late 2017 following safety concerns and controversy.
“Vaccine misinformation is a major threat to global health that could reverse decades of progress made in tackling preventable diseases. Many debilitating and deadly diseases can be effectively prevented by vaccines,” said WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a written statement following Facebook's announcement. “Major digital organizations have a responsibility to their users — to ensure that they can access facts about vaccines and health. It would be great to see social and search platforms come together to leverage their combined reach.”
Vaccination is a safe and scientifically proven way of fighting deadly and infectious diseases. It is backed by decades of studies and supported by various health organizations, including the WHO, Department of Health, the Philippine Pediatric Society (PPS) and the Pediatric Infectious Disease Society of the Philippines (PIDSP).
“Vaccinating our children is one of the most basic medical interventions to ensure that our children develop as healthy adults. Some fears and myths persist that vaccines could harm infants, but decades of studies have shown that vaccines prevent unnecessary child deaths instead of causing them,” said PIDSP president Dr. Anna Lisa Ong-Lim.
In August 2019, Sen. Ralph Recto urged the government to fight “fake news” on vaccines and suggested an information drive to combat misinformation on vaccines on top of the proposed national immunization budget for 2020.
“We should not lose the info wars against the superstition that vaccines are bad for kids,” Recto said in a statement.
It is important to have your child vaccinated in order to prevent deadly and infectious diseases. Click here for a list of vaccines recommended from birth to 18 years old.