Social Media Vaccine Websites: A Comparative Analysis of Public and Moderated Websites

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College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, Sociology and Criminology


Accuracy of information, Moderated websites, Vaccine hesitancy, Vaccine social media websites


The internet is an important source of vaccine information for parents. We evaluated and compared the interactive content on an expert moderated vaccine social media (VSM) website developed for parents of children 24 months of age or younger and enrolled in a health care system to a random sample of interactions extracted from publicly available parenting and vaccine-focused blogs and discussion forums. The study observation period was September 2013 through July 2016. Three hundred sixty-seven eligible websites were located using search terms related to vaccines. Seventy-nine samples of interactions about vaccines on public blogs and discussion boards and 61 interactions from the expert moderated VSM website were coded for tone, vaccine stance, and accuracy of information. If information was inaccurate, it was coded as corrected, partially corrected or uncorrected. Using chi-square or Fisher’s exact tests, we compared coded interactions from the VSM website with coded interactions from the sample of publicly available websites. We then identified representative quotes to illustrate the quantitative results. Tone, vaccine stance, and accuracy of information were significantly different (all p < .05). Publicly available vaccine websites tended to be more contentious and have a negative stance toward vaccines. These websites also had inaccurate and uncorrected information. In contrast, the expert moderated website had a more civil tone, minimal posting of inaccurate information, with very little participant-to-participant interaction. An expert moderated, interactive vaccine website appears to provide a platform for parents to gather accurate vaccine information, express their vaccine concerns and ask questions of vaccine experts.

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