Research

A profile of anti-vaccination lobbying on the South African internet, 2011 - 2013

Rosemary Joyce Burnett, Lauren Jennifer von Gogh, Molelekeng H Moloi, Guido François

Abstract


Background. The South African Vaccination and Immunisation Centre receives many requests to explain the validity of internet-based anti-vaccination claims. Previous global studies on internet-based anti-vaccination lobbying had not identified anti-vaccination web pages originating in South Africa (SA).

Objective. To characterise SA internet-based anti-vaccination lobbying.

Methods. In 2011, searches for anti-vaccination content were performed using Google, Yahoo and MSN-Bing, limited to English-language SA web pages. Content analysis was performed on web pages expressing anti-vaccination sentiment about infant vaccination. This was repeated in 2012 and 2013 using Google, with the first 700 web pages per search being analysed.

Results. Blogs/forums, articles and e-shops constituted 40.3%, 55.2% and 4.5% of web pages, respectively. Authors were lay people (63.5%), complementary/alternative medicine (CAM) practitioners (23.1%), medical professionals practising CAM (7.7%) and medical professionals practising only allopathic medicine (5.8%). Advertisements appeared on 55.2% of web pages. Of these, 67.6% were sponsored by or linked to organisations with financial interests in discrediting vaccines, with 80.0% and 24.0% of web pages sponsored by these organisations claiming respectively that vaccines are ineffective and that vaccination is profit driven. The vast majority of web pages (92.5%) claimed that vaccines are not safe, and 77.6% of anti-vaccination claims originated from the USA.

Conclusion.South Africans are creating web pages or blogs for local anti-vaccination lobbying. Research is needed to understand what influence internet-based anti-vaccination lobbying has on the uptake of infant vaccination in SA.

 


Authors' affiliations

Rosemary Joyce Burnett, South African Vaccination and Immunisation Centre, Department of Virology, Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University, Pretoria, South Africa

Lauren Jennifer von Gogh, South African Vaccination and Immunisation Centre, Department of Virology, Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University, Pretoria, South Africa

Molelekeng H Moloi, Department of Public Health, Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University, Pretoria, South Africa

Guido François, Department of Epidemiology and Social Medicine, University of Antwerp, Belgium

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Keywords

Anti-vaccination; Internet; South Africa

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2015;105(11):922-926. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.2015.v105i11.9654

Article History

Date submitted: 2015-03-26
Date published: 2015-10-09

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