PARENTS and young people are being urged by Public Health Wales not to rely purely on social media for information on vaccines and to seek out trusted sources, to ensure they have all the current, correct facts on why vaccines help save lives.
Trusted sources would include NHS Wales, Public Health Wales and health board websites, printed materials such as patient leaflets from GPs and hospital settings and health professionals themselves.
The call to action comes after a study was conducted on behalf of Public Health Wales by BMG, that explored attitudes, perceptions and awareness of Coronavirus and flu vaccines among young people aged 11 to 25 and parents of those aged 11 to 16.
The internet and sources relating to healthcare providers – such as websites, posters and leaflets, were found to be the most widely used by both parents and young people. Social media was more commonly used by young people than parents to find out about Coronavirus and flu vaccines.
Further analysis shows that information received via social media is likely to convey a mixture of messages for and against vaccination among young people and more likely to convey anti-vax messages to parents - making it critical that both cohorts seek out trusted sources to ensure they have the correct information.
Dr Chris Johnson, Interim Head of the Vaccine Preventable Disease Programme at Public Health Wales, said:
“With so much misinformation and disinformation out there, especially on social media, we are urging everyone to get their information on vaccines from trusted sources of reliable, evidence-based information, such as the Welsh Government, NHS or Public Health Wales websites, their GP or their health board.
“Young people are bombarded with too much, and often conflicting and misleading information on social media and we want to ensure they know that the correct information is out there for them. We are committed to engaging with young people to understand how we can give them the information they feel they need in a way that they want and that research such as this is vital to us understanding how we can do this better.
“This new study also showed us that protecting others is a great motivator for young people and we are very grateful to those who think that way. The science shows us that getting vaccinated against Coronavirus and flu is the most effective way to protect yourself and others in society from getting ill or seriously ill from these viruses.
“Regardless of age however, anyone can become seriously ill with flu or Covid-19 or suffer from long covid and we want to protect young people from this. Vaccination saves lives. It is the most important thing we can do to protect ourselves and others against ill health. Vaccines prevent up to three million deaths worldwide every year.”
Key findings of the study include:
- 72 per cent of young people have had a Coronavirus vaccine
- 49 per cent of young people have had a flu vaccine. ‘Protection of oneself and others’ was the biggest motivation for uptake in both the Coronavirus and flu vaccines, when eligible.
- Healthcare and school are the most trusted source of information for both groups
- After this, social media, family and television are where young people get their information on vaccines
- 60 per cent feel they have enough information on vaccines or know where to find it
- 60 per cent trust Public Health Wales as a trusted source of information
- 20 per cent have come across information not in favour of vaccines
- 60 per cent trust the vaccines and believe that they are lower risk than the diseases themselves
- The main reason respondents gave to why they may be hesitant to have the Coronavirus vaccine was uncertainty in the vaccines and how they were tested
- The main reason that respondents gave for not having the flu vaccine was a trust in one’s own immune system to provide protection
‘Attitudes towards COVID-19 and Flu Immunisations among Young People and Parents’ contains findings from a programme of quantitative and qualitative data collection exploring attitudes, perceptions and awareness of Coronavirus and flu vaccines among young people aged 11 to 25 and parents of young people aged 11 to 16. The findings presented result from the analysis of a quantitative survey with 230 parents and 457 people as well as six qualitative focus groups with parents and young people. The study was undertaken by BMG on behalf of Public Health Wales between January and March 2022 and its findings will help inform the planning of the national vaccination programme in Wales.