vaccination; communication; risk; health education
Taylor & Francis Online
Journal of Communication in Healthcare
Background: College-age students are a particularly important population regarding establishing beliefs about vaccines that carry on into later adulthood. One of the primary ways these beliefs can be influenced is via the source of information that students turn to concerning vaccine information.
Method: We administered a survey to 180 college-age students based on the WHO Report of the SAGE Working Group on Vaccine Hesitancy (2014). Questions focused on vaccine beliefs, perceived knowledge, perceived safety and perceived risk. Participants were also measured on sources they would use to obtain information on vaccines (e.g. healthcare providers, news media, government official, social media, friends, and parents).
Results: Based on regression analyses, vaccine beliefs were significantly impacted by safety (β = .44) and risk perceptions (β = .29) at the expense of knowledge perceptions. Furthermore, various information sources influenced perceptions of safety (healthcare provider (β = .24)), risk (social media (β = −.19)), and knowledge (social media (β = −.20) and healthcare providers (β = .16)). Specifically, increases in social media source usage resulted in more negative vaccine beliefs. Conversely, utilization of healthcare providers resulted in more positive vaccine beliefs.
Conclusion: Results suggest, in cases of college-age students, vaccine information should focus on issues dealing with students’ perceptions of risk and safety, not their level of knowledge. Additionally, while parents and friends may act as a primary information sources, more attention needs to be paid to the negative impact of social media and the positive impact of healthcare providers.