Health and Healthcare

This is how social media giants are helping stop the spread of measles

Lead medical assistant Fengmei Lin holds a vial of the measles, mumps, and rubella virus (MMR) vaccine at the International Community Health Services clinic in Seattle, Washington, U.S., March 20, 2019. Picture taken March 20, 2019.  REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson - RC18944AAF40

This won't hurt: the MMR vaccination Image: REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson

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Social media companies are responding to the World Health Organization's call to help prevent the spread of misinformation about vaccines, following a measles increase in almost every region in the world.


Pinterest has announced that for search terms such as “measles” and “vaccine safety”, it will only share information from public health organizations, such as the WHO, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Vaccine Safety Net, a global network of websites that provides reliable vaccine safety information.

Image: Reuters/Brian Snyder

The site now features content on the number of lives saved each year thanks to vaccines, and includes the message: “If you’re looking for medical advice, please contact a healthcare provider”.

“We’re taking this approach because we believe that showing vaccine misinformation alongside resources from public health experts isn't responsible,” says Pinterest’s Public Policy and Social Impact Manager Ifeoma Ozoma.

Image: Statista

Stopping the spread

Nearly three times as many cases were reported from January to July of this year than in the same period in 2018, according to the WHO. Four European countries – Albania, the Czech Republic, Greece and the UK – lost their measles-free status in 2018.

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What is the World Economic Forum doing about access to vaccines?

Vaccine hesitancy – the refusal to take up widely available vaccines – has been reported in more than 90% of countries - driven in part by misinformation spread via social media.

Between 2010-2017, nearly 3 million US children did not have their first measles vaccine. The country recently logged 1,215 measles cases across 30 states, in the worst outbreak since 1992.

A plea from the American Academy of Pediatrics to ensure social media users are only given access to “credible, science-based information” has led to other digital giants changing their recommendation algorithms and demonetizing “anti-vax” videos.

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