BMJ: How are social media influencing vaccination? Understanding online behaviour and health outcomes

21 January, 2024

Dear HIFA colleagues,

I would like to flag this important BMJ collection that is highly relevant to HIFA:

Here is the introduction:

'Social media platforms are transforming communication and the ways in which people access information about health. Despite the many benefits of these tools, concerns exist around the capacity for social media to enable proliferation of misinformation or scientifically invalid ideas, particularly around vaccination. How can we draw insights from research conducted using social media to understand its effects on beliefs and behaviours around vaccination, and to influence population health outcomes?

'In collaboration with the Advancing Health Online Initiative (AHO), this collection brings together original research examining the diverse relationships between social media use and vaccination beliefs and behaviours globally. The research studies included in this collection were funded through AHO’s Vaccine Confidence Fund. Further Analysis and Opinion articles, commissioned by The BMJ, explore the challenges of carrying out research in this nascent field and in drawing insights for policy action.'

The collection includes links to several papers and a 10-minute video that features HIFA member Charles Wiysonge (WHO Africa Regional Office). He makes the important point: "Where people who have been socially marginalised, this sabotages the relationship between governments and citizens." Hi colleagues Heidi Larson (Vaccine Confidence Project, LSHTM) and Sara Cooper (MRC South Africa) corroborate this, emphasising the importance of building trust as part of public health communication. The challenge is not just to deliver accurate information, but to deliver it in a way that instils trust.

One of the many paper sin the collection is titled How can doctors counter health misinformation on social media? The paper gives valuable practical pointers that are applicable to all health professionals.

I look forward to hear your views on the above.

HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of HIFA (Healthcare Information For All), a global health community that brings all stakeholders together around the shared goal of universal access to reliable healthcare information. HIFA has 20,000 members in 180 countries, interacting in four languages and representing all parts of the global evidence ecosystem. HIFA is administered by Global Healthcare Information Network, a UK-based nonprofit in official relations with the World Health Organization. Email: