The internet is quickly becoming the primary source of information on any subject these days, including individual’s health. In the US an estimated 75-80% of internet users obtain information regarding health issues online. In 2006, 16% of internet users searched for information regarding vaccination.
One of the main reasons for this increase is the ease at which information can be obtained and it is a cost-effective alternative to visiting the local GP. It is also the fact that individuals can feel that they are in control of their own health choices and not reliant on health professionals, a group of individuals the public increasingly distrusts.
However, the internet can be a source of misinformation due to the fact there is no filter or review process for the material that is published. As a result, information published online by anti-vaccination groups carries as much weight as reliable well researched information. Individuals that search sites for vaccine information are likely to believe that this information is true. A paper published in 2005 showed that parents that chose not to vaccinate their children were more likely to have obtained their information from the internet.
Salmon DA. et al., Factors associated with refusal of childhood vaccines among parents of school-aged children: a case study. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2005;159(5):470-6.