Social media threats to vaccine uptake can be overcome: experts

However there are opportunities for public health, they add. Hugely popular websites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have taken the capacity to spread messages to a new level.

“Due to open user participation, health messages as well as concerns and rumours regarding vaccinations have the potential to spread virally across the globe in a rapid, efficient and vivid manner,” the German authors wrote in a commentary in Vaccine.

“Web 2.0… is particularly well suited for collecting and disseminating personal stories in anti-vaccination messages – which represent powerful pieces of information.

“The major challenge for public health communication will be to respond to and participate in an interactive, user-responsive environment.”

The article offers provisional guidelines for online vaccine communication, with an emphasis on establishing a “trustworthy” online presence and websites