A review of an article: “YouTube as a Source of Information on Immunization: A Content Analysis”




The authors recognize that there is a concern by health care professionals about the accuracy and the quality of scientific information that is transmitted from Internet-based sources. One example brought up by the authors is the use of internet sites (specifically looking at YouTube) to communicate information about immunization. As YouTube is a video-sharing website for users to freely share videos that discuss the risks and benefits of immunization, the authors decide to conduct a descriptive study to characterize the information about immunization on YouTube since there were no studies done to examine the contents of the videos shared on YouTube.


A content analysis was done on YouTube via using keywords such as vaccination and immunization. The authors included all unique videos with English language content that contain messages about human immunization and extracted information such as the type of video, length of the video and the claims made by the video. Classification of the videos was done by looking at the content of the video as well as the statistics that measures users’ interactions, such as view counts and reviews. Videos are considered negative if the videos convey negative messages about immunization. Examples of negative messages include emphasizing on the risks, arguing against immunization or making claims about a conspiracy between supporters of vaccination and manufacturers. Videos are considered positive if positive messages such as benefits and safety of immunization or encouraging immunization among people were conveyed. Ambiguous videos are videos that contain a debate or no definite stand was taken.

Results and Analysis 

A total of 153 videos were identified and analyzed. 73 videos (48%) were positive, 49 (32%) were negative and 31 (20%) were ambiguous. Looking at the users’ interactions, negative videos are more likely to receive a higher mean star rating and having more views. Public service announcements receive the lowest rating and fewest views. The most common discussed vaccine topic and specific vaccine were general childhood vaccines and HPV vaccine respectively.

Little reflection

It is interesting to find that despite having more positive videos, the videos that receive a higher rating were the negative videos. This could mean that there is a group of YouTube users who are skeptical towards the use of immunization.

Another interesting fact that was observed is the low number of views and rating for public service announcements with regards to immunization despite being official videos made by the government bodies. This makes me wonder what are the factors that determine the number of views of a social media video. A search for any keywords will result in numerous videos relating to the keywords and what is the determining factor whether this video is going to be clicked or skipped.

Facebook and YouTube, being in the top 3 social network sites in 2017 [1], plays an important role in the manoeuvring the perception among the public.  However, the influence of social media is not to be undermined. It was found by Anderson in 2013 that an exposure towards negative comments in the online media about this emerging new technology could sway the risk perception along the lines of social and ethical concerns [2]. In addition, Druckman also investigates the importance in the editorial slant (tone of the press media) in influencing the readers’ decision-making process [3].

Looking at how the internet users responded to the difference in views of immunization, it might be interesting to do a study on what are the factors affecting the viewership of the YouTube videos portraying new science and technology.


Review article: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18056901

[1] https://www.statista.com/statistics/272014/global-social-networks-ranked-by-number-of-users/

[2] http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jcc4.12009/full

[3] http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1468-2508.2005.00349.x/full


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