The Role Of Big Data In The Fight Against Anti-Vaxxers


Very recently, data gathered from nearly 600,000 Danish children squashed links between the MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) vaccination and autism. The study is similar to the one carried out in 2002 by the same team of scientists.

So why repeat the same research again? In spite of mounting evidence to the contrary, many people are still joining the anti-vax movement. The research was conducted purely to debunk false anti-vaccination propaganda. The belief that the MMR vaccine may cause autism in children is one of the leading reasons parents decide against inoculation.

In emphatic language, the researchers  followed 657,461 Danish children born between 1999 and 2010 and stated in the Annals of Internal Medicine: “The study strongly supports that MMR vaccination does not increase the risk for autism, does not trigger autism in susceptible children and is not associated with clustering of autism cases after vaccination.”

What else can big data do in the fight against preventable diseases?

Big Data can be used to analyse search data, giving healthcare workers invaluable insights into how vaccinations are perceived by the wider community. What are the most common questions that need answering?

Just recently Facebook announced that they will no longer advertise false information surrounding the MMR vaccine, which is thought to be a significant blow to the anti-vaccination movement. In contrast, social media data can be used to discover attitudes towards vaccination, delivering insights into the most suitable way to educate the general public.

In the UK, electronic vaccination records help to pinpoint areas where uptake is too low, giving doctors and health authorities a chance to roll out targeted catch-up campaigns. These systems include automatic reminders which have the potential to automatically generate lists that identify under-vaccinated populations, determine which vaccines are overdue and generate reminders for doctors and the public.

In summary

Currently, vaccinations are not mandatory, so the development of more sophisticated and effective vaccinations is pointless without proper education. More sophisticated electronic vaccination records may allow an individual to keep up to date with their vaccination status. Pinterest has already followed the lead of Facebook by discouraging the spread of false information on its platform with calls for other tech giants to do likewise.

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