A profile of anti-vaccination lobbying on the South African internet, 2011-2013
Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences
SAMJ: South African medical journal / Medical Association of South Africa. - Cape Town
, p. 922-926
University of Antwerp
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.