How Social Networks Can Influence Flu Vaccination Decisions
Special thanks to Christine Vara and Every Child By Two (ECBT) for this guest blog post on how social media can be used to positively influence influenza (flu) vaccination decisions, as part of the NFID inaugural 2015 National Influenza Immunization Week (NIVW) Blog Relay.
As a communications specialist and mother of five, I’m extremely passionate about immunization education and the power of social networks. Everything that I do as the social media manager for Every Child By Two (ECBT) is done in support of ECBT’s goal to provide people with evidence-based information about vaccines so that they can make well-informed immunization decisions for themselves and their family.
Since ECBT’s social media platforms (including the Vaccinate Your Family Facebook page, @EveryChildBy2 and @ShotofPrev Twitter accounts, and Shot of Prevention blog) reach more than 7 million followers, we are committed to educating the public about a broad array of issues. This includes news about outbreaks of preventable diseases, new vaccine developments and recommendations, vaccine safety and efficacy studies, and steps our readers can take to advocate for strong, science-based immunization policies.
However, each year-right around this time of the season-we are typically focused on one important issue: influenza (flu).
It’s been 5 years since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced a universal flu vaccine recommendation in which they recommended everyone six months of age and older should get an annual flu vaccine.
Less than half of the US population received flu vaccine in the past season…clearly, we still have work to do.
While vaccination rates continue to rise each year, common flu vaccine myths that keep people from vaccinating persist and are often shared among social media networks. Therefore, one of the most important things we can do to prevent the spread of flu (besides getting vaccinated, of course) is to use our own social media influence to counter the prolific misinformation and refer people to reputable immunization resources.
There are several ways that ECBT is working to do this:
Highlighting the Dangers of Flu
With the introduction of our new Vaccinate Your Family program, families can now go to ECBT’s social media platforms, or the new Vaccinate Your Family website, to obtain information about influenza vaccines recommended for pregnant women, children, adolescents, and adults.
Studies show that people are more motivated to protect themselves from a vaccine-preventable disease when they have a clear understanding of the risks of the disease, which is why the new website houses scientifically-accurate information on influenza vaccines for each stage of life; details about the burden of influenza; and personal stories from those who have been affected by flu.
By combining compelling disease statistics with personal stories, we have been able to create powerful infographics and blog posts that are being shared in record numbers.
For instance, earlier this week, our Shot of Prevention blog posted 147 Kids Died From Flu Last Year. My Scarlet Was One of Them, in which Rebecca Hendricks explains how little she knew about flu before her precious daughter Scarlet died last season. Her honesty and disbelief over the dangers of the flu, along with her resolve to prevent further tragedy by encouraging others to get vaccinated, has clearly resonated with people. In just a few short days more than half a million people saw her Facebook post and thousands continue to share it daily. In January this year, Joe Lastinger’s story, Our Life Without Emily: Flu, Fear, Guilt and Regret, was similarly popular among social networks.
These personal stories, as well Luke’s story of a teen athlete who spent a month hospitalized due to influenza, are all part of a bigger strategy to elevate the message that flu is dangerous, and sometimes even deadly.
In these examples, the power of the personal story is helping us to reach new audiences with an important message. However, the same tactic is often used on social media to perpetuate inaccurate flu vaccine myths. This is why we must consistently accompany these personal stories with evidence-based information and create a conversation about the safety and benefits of flu vaccination.
Educating People About the Benefits of Flu Vaccines
ECBT’s social media engagement allows us to interact with people in real time and address questions and concerns through Facebook and blog comment threads.
During the NFID inaugural 2015 National Influenza Immunization Week (NIVW) Blog Relay, guest bloggers, including several prominent medical professionals, answered common questions like “Can a flu vaccine give you the flu?”, “Do I need a flu vaccine each year?”, and “Should pregnant women be vaccinated against flu?” These medical professionals are experts on the subject of immunizations. However, they do not have the physical capacity to speak to every person who has questions and concerns. This is why we ask that you join us in elevating accurate evidence-based information across your own social networks.
Not only can we work together to address concerns quickly, but we can also refer them to reputable sources for more information and suggest they continue the conversation with their healthcare professional.
Share all the informative posts from the NFID inaugural 2015 National Influenza Immunization Week (NIVW) Blog Relay. Subscribe to our Shot of Prevention blog, follow Vaccinate Your Family on Facebook, and @ShotofPrev on Twitter.
Together we can elevate our voices in support of flu vaccination.