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Speaking to the Medical Independent (MI), Dr Roy K Philip commented: “An average new mother or father is not somebody who immediately takes a leaflet, which the HSE supplies, and reads it.
“That had a role in the past – maybe it still has a role – but the new parents are actually from the digital age. They will be immediately looking at whatever is available on their smart phones.”
Dr Philip is lead author of an article entitled Is it Time for Vaccination to ‘Go Viral’? published in the December edition of The Paediatric Infectious Disease Journal.
Concern over the impact of anti-vaccination websites and social media accounts have been raised by public health experts in Ireland and abroad.
Dr Philip told MI that the recent substantial drop in the uptake of the HPV vaccine in Ireland gives the article a “particular relevance in an Irish context”.
“Smart phone usage is increasing; social media is increasing. But the reality is the vaccination sector and the healthcare system is not moving at the same pace as this change.”
Dr Philip, who is a consultant at University Hospital Limerick, said the conventional way of disseminating information through leaflets in GP surgeries or by standard websites is no longer sufficient.
People “living in the digital age” are accessing health information online but it is often “coming in, in an unfiltered, unregulated manner and the reader is unable to differentiate what is what”.
“The conventional system operates in a conventional way whether it is the health authority in Ireland or any other country. They have a particular pattern of disseminating the information.
“We are not using the modern tools, where the parents look for information. So I think where we have to go is to where the parents look for information and target those locations.”
Dr Philip said the research also showed that vaccination authorities need to provide a constant message online.
The article concluded that vaccination should be promoted as an action that protects the whole family and improves health for all age groups, and not only have connotations with childhood.