Almost every mom out there has strong opinions on vaccinations, whether it's for or against. But you'll never guess what has the strongest influence on our opinions. A new study says social networks affect parents' decisions to vaccinate more than anything else. In other words, Facebook made you vaccinate -- or decide not to vaccinate!
More interesting, it looks like vaccination "naysayers" (people who chose to delay or opt out of vaccinations) are more likely to be influenced by social media than parents who stay on schedule. They're also more likely to have collections of books, articles, and websites where they turn for vaccination information.
This was a small study: Just 196 parents were interviewed. I know that always skews people's opinions of a study, so keep this in perspective. Still, the study's findings make a lot of sense to me. How many times have I heard parents who oppose following the CDC's vaccination schedule say, "I've done the research!"
On the other hand, I have pro-vaccination friends who also say, "I've done the research" -- but that's because they're doctors or medical researchers.
Anyway, when I think about those moments when I've doubted the safety of vaccinations, it's always been from talking with friends or following links posted on Facebook. Who do you trust more? It sounds like we trust our friends more than we trust the medical establishment. Should we trust our friends more, though? I think that's a difficult question to answer. Western medicine has been wrong just often enough to make people wonder -- and you know that when we wonder, we ask questions, and we can't help sharing what we find, no matter how reliable the source is.
Do you feel like social media had a large effect on your decisions about vaccinating?
Image via Army Medicine/Flickr