Social Media Started the Anti-Vax Movement. Could It End It, Too?

convince me to vax

Health disinformation is rampant on social media – particularly around the subject of vaccinations – but the platform can also be used to spread positive messages.

For years, epidemiologists have warned that the burgeoning anti-vaccination movement could usher in new outbreaks of infectious diseases previously thought to have been wiped out. Today their predictions are coming to pass. The CDC reported 695 measles cases across 22 states in April 2019, a record since the disease was declared eliminated from the United States in 2000.

The anti-vaccination movement has caught fire on social media, where anxious parents speculate about the risks of vaccines without guidance from medical professionals. But could social media now serve as a platform to defuse anti-vaccination fears? Healthcare marketing magazine MM&M thinks so. The website has launched a contest where anyone can submit creative work encouraging members of the public to get vaccinated.

MM&M’s contest is just one way that social media and digital marketing are being enlisted to spread positive health messages. By harnessing the power of social, medical marketers can reach new audiences with informative and compelling content.

MM&M’s #ConvinceMeToVax Contest

The #ConvinceMeToVax contest invites medical marketing professionals and public health advocates to submit their best creative work assuring the public that vaccines are safe and effective. Submissions in the form of short videos, graphics, posters, and Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram posts are welcomed, with the aim of convincing people that vaccination is the best choice for them and their children.

Submissions are uploaded to MM&M’s website, and then the public will have the chance to vote. Winning entries that combat anti-vaccine disinformation will be featured on the magazine’s website and social media channels. Using the slogan “Be part of the solution,” the contest promises to help medical marketers showcase their creativity while helping to stop the spread of communicable – and preventable – diseases.

Positive Health Messages on Social Media

Social media is a powerful tool for spreading information, and it has been used to sow fear and confusion in the public. Yet #ConvinceMeToVax is just one example of how social media can be harnessed to spread positive health messages as well.

In November 2018 – just eleven days after the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting that left eleven people dead – the NRA tweeted, “Someone should tell self-important anti-gun doctors to stay in their lane.” In response, forensic pathologist Judy Melinek, MD, wrote, “Do you have any idea how many bullets I pull out of corpses weekly? This isn’t just my lane. This is my _____ highway.” Melinek’s tweet went viral with 150,000 retweets, launching the #ThisIsMyLane movement. In this case, medical professionals used the power of social media to show that they won’t stand idly by while gun violence harms their patients.

Teen vaping is another public health challenge that can be combated with social media. E-cigarette use among teenagers has hit alarming rates; Instagram posts of teens exhaling clouds contribute to the perception that vaping is cool. However, social media is ideal for fighting this epidemic. Targeted digital advertising can aim PSAs directly at the 13-to-19-year-old demographic most at risk, with messages conveying the dangers of vaping. Parents too can be targeted with ads encouraging them to counter the peer pressure their kids may face.

Armed with the right tools, healthcare providers can be part of the solution by spreading positive messages online. Twitter is ideal for connecting with patients in a genuine way. Video is especially effective at promoting healthy living. For instance, short, engaging videos posted on Facebook and Instagram can educate patients about diet, exercise, sleep, stress, and other wellness topics.

Harmful health misinformation may thrive on social media, but remember that its power can be used to promote positive messages as well. Healthcare providers that take a stand with movements like #ConvinceMeToVax can help educate the public as well as increase their social visibility to prospective patients.

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