NYC Orders Vaccinations as Social Media Sites Fight 'Anti-Vax' Epidemic

Photo Credit: Seth Wenig/AP/Shutterstock
April 9, 2019

By Amanda Weston

Amid what Mayor Bill de Blasio calls a measles crisis, New York City declared a public health emergency Tuesday and ordered mandatory vaccinations in a Brooklyn neighborhood.

Some are blaming misinformation being spread by "anti-vaxxers" online.

"So often vaccinations get framed in this idea about personal choice or choice about one's child," Richard Carpiano, professor of public policy and sociology at the University of California, Riverside, told Cheddar Tuesday.

"But it's very important to recognize that this is a public health problem. And from a public health standpoint, from the law, from public health policy, it is about balancing the rights of individuals versus the health and safety of a community."

As health officials see a comeback in some dangerous diseases among children, some social media platforms are trying to stop the spread of debunked claims surrounding vaccines.

Pinterest does not show results when a user searches "vaccine." However, searching "measles vaccine" still yields results.

Facebook ($FB) no longer recommends groups and pages spreading vaccine misinformation, but users can still find those groups by searching "anti vax."

And Instagram allows users to search #VaccinesKill, resulting in both debunked claims and jokes about "anti-vaxxers."

Carpiano said it's going to take a strategy to stop the spread of misinformation.

"It's going to take a concerted effort, and a lot of this has been a bit sort of whack-a-mole, I guess you could say, in the sense that issues have been popping up here and there and we need to be thinking about this platform and that platform," Carpiano said.

Carpiano added the companies "have a social responsibility."

"It is [users'] right to post whatever it is that they want, but that doesn't exactly mean that it's right, and particularly if it's putting children and other people in communities at risk."

For full interview click here.