This Week on #MedTwitter: How Doctors are Fighting Anti-Vaxxers

By Diana Duong & Dr. Sharon Vorona

Between online battles and vaccine-hesitant patients, physicians are on the front line of the ongoing war against anti-vaxxers.

Doctor Debunks Vaccine Myths on the Internet

Frustrated with the amount of misinformation online, @DocBastard, a highly popular trauma surgeon, addressed every possible concern a vaccine-hesitant patient could bring up: toxins, the classic “I’ve never gotten the flu, why do I need a flu shot?” excuse, and questions such as why no study on vaccinated versus unvaccinated children exists. The comprehensive post addresses a grand total of 72 vaccine myths and doubts and is well worth bookmarking.

CDC Director Suggests Reminding Children What Previous Generations Have Faced

Dr. Tara Smith, a microbiologist, and infectious disease epidemiologist tweeted from the NFID conference in vaccinology research where Dr. Robert Redfield gave the keynote talk this week. The virologist and director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) encourages bringing vaccine clinics back to schools and inviting extended family, engaging “grandparents who’ve seen these diseases as advocates.”

Doctors Resent Being Called “Complicit” in the Rise of the Anti-Vaccine Movement

Speaking of advocacy, the Canadian newspaper National Post claimed on its cover that “we are all collectively complicit” in the rise of the anti-vaxx movement by endorsing the rise of wellness products. This did not sit well with the #MedTwitter community. Dr. Jaime Friedman, a California-based pediatrician, says doctors do make an effort through blog posts, op-eds, and interviews for local news. @DocBastard turned the blame onto the media and said those who give a platform for anti-vaxxers and present a false balance are complicit.

Pro-Vaccine Evidence Starting to Outweigh Anti-Vaccine Misinformation on Social Media

Finally, some good news. Switzerland-based physician-scientist Dr. Melvin Sanicas shared a story from the Conversation this week that showed Indiana University researchers have found being vocal about the evidence behind vaccines is working. Although the majority of vaccine content on Twitter was initially dominated by anti-vax accounts and misinformation, that has since reversed. Beginning in mid-2017, pro-vax content has been dominating the conversation, especially with influential health groups like @WHO, @UNICEF, and @gavi becoming more vocal.

How do you discuss vaccination with vaccine-resistant parents? The science is clear: Effective vaccination helps prevent and eradicate infectious diseases. But vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles and pertussis are on the rise in the U.S. — a trend that coincides with an increase in refusals to vaccinate. In anticipation of the back-to-school season, we surveyed our community on strategies they use when encountering skeptical parents.

Published April 2019