2010 Influenza and Vaccine Information Available on the Web

Anna Caruana* Umberto Gelatti*
Anna Caruana*, Section of Hygiene, Epidemiology and Public Health - Department of Experimental and Applied Medicine - University of Brescia, Brescia, Italy
Grazia Orizio, Section of Hygiene, Epidemiology and Public Health - Department of Experimental and Applied Medicine - University of Brescia, Brescia, Italy
Loredana Covolo, Section of Hygiene, Epidemiology and Public Health - Department of Experimental and Applied Medicine - University of Brescia, Brescia, Italy
Luigi Caimi, “Quality and Technology Assessment, Governance and Communication Strategies in Health Systems” Study and Research Centre – University of Brescia (Italy), Brescia, Italy
Umberto Gelatti*, Section of Hygiene, Epidemiology and Public Health - Department of Experimental and Applied Medicine - University of Brescia, Brescia, Italy

Track: Research
Presentation Topic: Health information on the web: Supply and Demand
Presentation Type: Poster presentation
Submission Type: Single Presentation

Building: LKSC Conference Center Stanford
Room: Lower Lobby
Date: 2011-09-18 12:00 PM – 01:00 PM
Last modified: 2011-08-12

If you are the presenter of this abstract (or if you cite this abstract in a talk or on a poster), please show the QR code in your slide or poster (QR code contains this URL).


In the field of public health, preventive measures need an effective communication strategy in order to be successful. During the 2010 influenza pandemic the public was bombarded with information on presumed risks associated with the flu vaccine, which created an atmosphere of suspicion (a “plot theory”) that made it very difficult to implement the vaccination campaign in some countries. The aim of the study was to investigate the characteristics and contents of websites providing flu vaccine information.
Website selection was performed, from an Italian IP address, in autumn 2010 via the two most commonly used search engines (Google.com and Yahoo.com) using eight keywords (flu vaccine, flu vaccination, flu immunization, flu shot, influenza vaccine, influenza vaccination, influenza immunization, influenza shot). We analyzed the first three pages, for a total of 480 occurrences. We included websites at least in English and we classified the results in four categories: 1. “classical” websites with at least one section specifically dedicated to flu vaccine in a structured way; 2. websites based on web 2.0 philosophy (blogs, social networks, communities, forum, videos); 3. websites displaying popular news/articles; 4. scientific documents. The first category was coded according to the content analysis method, using a codebook that enabled two types of information to be collected: a qualitative analysis of the websites and a qualitative analysis of the flu vaccine information provided by the websites. The website analysis was performed according to the WHO’s “Good Information Practice Essential Criteria for Vaccine Safety Web Sites”, and specifically regarded general information, credibility, accessibility, design and content (authority of sources, accuracy, currency, review process). The flu vaccine contents regarded administration, doses, times, indications, efficacy, contraindications, benefits and risks. For all the four categories we evaluated whether the overall attitude was pro, neutral, or against the flu vaccine. We also evaluated the "Page Rank", namely the position of the page itself in the search results, in order to assess user visibility.
We selected 87 “classical” websites, 13 web 2.0 websites, 26 websites displaying popular news/articles and 25 scientific documents providing influenza vaccine information. About 55 “classical” websites were about the seasonal vaccine only, 3 about the anti-H1N1 vaccine and 29 about both. The websites were most often private ones (36%), public health agencies (29%), health facilities (13%), public health associations (11%), and pharmaceutical/diagnostic companies and universities (both 4%). Regarding the attitude towards the flu vaccine, 6 (7%) “classical” websites (2 regarding the seasonal vaccine only and 4 both vaccines), 3 (23%) web 2.0 website, 7 (27%) websites displaying popular news/articles and no scientific documents had a negative attitude. Statistical difference was found when comparing “classical” websites and websites with popular articles (p= 0.010). Entering the 8 keywords in the Yahoo search engine we found a higher number of different websites on the first page (first 10 occurrences) compared to Google: 28 versus 18. Whereas Google always ranked first Wikipedia only, Yahoo ranked 4 websites, 3/4 with a .gov extension - cdc.gov, csm.gov, flu.gov - and Wikipedia. The 6 negative attitude websites never ranked on the first page. Web 2.0 websites and websites displaying popular news/articles with negative attitude towards the flu vaccine were listed only using Google and never using Yahoo.
We found that the majority of the “classical” websites providing flu vaccine information had a positive attitude towards the vaccine (93%). A negative attitude was more present in web 2.0 websites and in websites with popular articles. The page ranking analysis showed the crucial role of search engines regarding access to information on the Internet.

Medicine 2.0® is happy to support and promote other conferences and workshops in this area. Contact us to produce, disseminate and promote your conference or workshop under this label and in this event series. In addition, we are always looking for hosts of future World Congresses. Medicine 2.0® is a registered trademark of JMIR Publications Inc., the leading academic ehealth publisher.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.