Relationship Between Media Coverage and Measles-Mumps-Rubella (MMR) Vaccination Uptake in Denmark: Retrospective Study

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Background: Understanding the influence of media coverage upon vaccination activity is valuable when designing outreach campaigns to increase vaccination uptake.

Objective: To study the relationship between media coverage and vaccination activity of the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine in Denmark.

Methods: We retrieved data on media coverage (1622 articles), vaccination activity (2 million individual registrations), and incidence of measles for the period 1997-2014. All 1622 news media articles were annotated as being provaccination, antivaccination, or neutral. Seasonal and serial dependencies were removed from the data, after which cross-correlations were analyzed to determine the relationship between the different signals.

Results: Most (65%) of the anti-vaccination media coverage was observed in the period 1997-2004, immediately before and following the 1998 publication of the falsely claimed link between autism and the MMR vaccine. There was a statistically significant positive correlation between the first MMR vaccine (targeting children aged 15 months) and provaccination media coverage (r=.49, P=.004) in the period 1998-2004. In this period the first MMR vaccine and neutral media coverage also correlated (r=.45, P=.003). However, looking at the whole period, 1997-2014, we found no significant correlations between vaccination activity and media coverage.

Conclusions: Following the falsely claimed link between autism and the MMR vaccine, provaccination and neutral media coverage correlated with vaccination activity. This correlation was only observed during a period of controversy which indicates that the population is more susceptible to media influence when presented with diverging opinions. Additionally, our findings suggest that the influence of media is stronger on parents when they are deciding on the first vaccine of their children, than on the subsequent vaccine because correlations were only found for the first MMR vaccine.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere9544
JournalJMIR Public Health and Surveillance
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)209-220
Publication statusPublished - 2019

    Research areas

  • online news media, vaccination uptake, media influence on vaccination uptake, MMR, autism

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