In a surprise revelation, researchers report that nearly 75 percent of the vaccine-related posts on the visual social media platform Pinterest are negative towards vaccination.
According to the team from Virginia Commonwealth University and Drexel University, it is time to take more concrete action and scientists need to speak out more effectively in favour of vaccines while institutions need to support and encourage advocacy.
People are communicating more and more on visual social media platforms such as Pinterest and Instagram.
These visual platforms are growing quickly. Pinterest now has around 74 million users.
What's more, visuals are playing an increasingly important role on platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
"Despite this, relatively little is known about what people are saying about big issues like vaccination on visual platforms," said Jeanine Guidry, lead author from Virginia Commonwealth University.
"With the academic publishing process being slow compared to the speed of social media, we tend to be a few years behind when platforms become popular," Guidry noted in a paper published in the journal Vaccine.
Guidry and her colleagues collected 800 "pins" - messages people have posted on Pinterest - and analysed them to determine whether they are pro or anti-vaccination.
The sample was collected manually as there is no code yet to help collect pins using a hashtag or keyword.
The results revealed that 75 percent of all vaccine-related "pins" were negative.
"These are real fears that people have. From a public health perspective, we need to talk to people about their fears," Guidry noted.
The results show a significant shift from earlier studies. In the mid-2000s, analyses of content on MySpace and YouTube revealed that vaccine-related posts were negative just 25 percent of the time.