Facebook Has a Plan to Combat Vaccine Misinformation

"When we find ads that include misinformation about vaccinations, we will reject them."

Facebook is working to tackle vaccine misinformation across its social network. “We are working to tackle vaccine misinformation on Facebook by reducing its distribution and providing people with authoritative information on the topic,” said Monika Bickert, Facebook’s vice-president of global policy management.

Related: Health Unit Hold Immunization Clinics on March Break

Bicker laid out Facebook’s plan, saying they will reduce the ranking of groups and pages that spread misinformation about vaccinations. It means when you type “vaccination” into the search bar on Facebook, those ‘groups and pages’ will not be included in the recommendations Facebook suggest.

“When we find ads that include misinformation about vaccinations, we will reject them.”


Monika Bickert, Facebook’s vice-president of global policy management

“When we find ads that include misinformation about vaccinations, we will reject them, said Bickert.” There are targeting options within Facebook ads manager that allow you to target people specifically interested in a subject related to your product or “content”.

 Facebook will reduce the ranking of groups and Pages that spread misinformation about vaccinations in News Feed and Search
Facebook will reduce the ranking of groups and Pages that spread misinformation about vaccinations in News Feed and Search

For example, you could target people interested in “vaccine controversies.” Bickert says Facebook has removed related targeting options, like “vaccine controversies.”Facebook also announced they have stopped showing or recommending content that contains misinformation about vaccinations on Instagram Explore or hashtag page.


Learn Ontario’s immunization schedule from AboutKidsHealth
Ontario’s immunization schedule from AboutKidsHealth

It doesn’t take long to find news, opinions or misinformation of preventable diseases online. Local cases have been cropping up in the area. The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit recently disclosed five cases of the Mumps in Collingwood.

The Health Unit’s Program Manager of Infectious Diseases Jillian Fenik says there’s a sure-fire way to protect against the disease. “You get immunized. People are immunized at about one year, with the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, and as well as again at about four or six. The two doses will protect against the mumps, it is considered lifelong protection.” Those five infected with the disease were all under the age of ten.

Stories like that have led to a renewed focus on immunizations. Parents of unvaccinated children have an opportunity over March Break to get their kids vaccinated or to learn more about what’s offered.

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit is offering Immunization Clinics in response to a series of suspension orders sent home to public school students. Over 1,000 letters were mailed out, asking that immunizations record be brought up to date.

RELATED: NO CONFIRMED CASES OF MEASLES IN SIMCOE-MUSKOKA

Dr. Charles Gardner, the Simcoe-Muskoka Medical Officer of Health has penned an open letter, saying these immunizations are key in preventing childhood diseases. In his letter, Dr. Gardner says the vaccinations for measles, mumps, and rubella is the most effective way of halting the spread of these diseases.

Dr. Gardner’s letter in full:

“Immunization against childhood diseases has been so successful that many people today have never experienced or seen cases of the diseases that immunization protects against. But that doesn’t mean that they are gone – many of these diseases still exist throughout the world, including Canada, and they easily spread when people are not immunized. We’ve seen this recently with a cluster of local mumps cases.

Maintaining high measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination coverage remains the most effective way to prevent the spread of these childhood diseases. Routinely given in combination with measles and rubella soon after a child’s first birthday, and again at four to six years of age, the MMR vaccine offers safe and effective protection against mumps.

The mumps virus is easily spread through coughing and sneezing, through infected saliva when water bottles, food or cigarettes are shared, or through kissing. The virus can also survive on surfaces.

Symptoms of mumps can start about 12-25 days after being in close contact with someone with mumps. They can include headache, fever, muscle pain, loss of appetite, swelling of the salivary glands around jaw and cheeks and tender testicles in men. In rare instances, mumps can lead to more serious complications. 

While handwashing and covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze can help reduce the spread, being immunized against the mumps is the only way to actually prevent it.

Those who have not been vaccinated are most at risk of getting mumps, however those born between 1970 and 1992 may only have received one dose of the MMR vaccine. They should make sure that they have had the second dose for full coverage.

A person with the mumps virus can spread the virus from seven days before symptoms appear to about nine days after the symptoms appear. People with mumps should stay home and away from other people until five days after swelling starts, as this is when mumps is the most contagious. If you think you may have the mumps, see your health care provider.

To ensure your family’s immunizations are up to date, see your health care provider. Vaccinations are also available by appointment at regular clinics held at health unit offices throughout Simcoe and Muskoka.

For more information about the mumps and immunization, call Health Connection at 705-721-7520 or 1-877-721-7520 Monday through Friday 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. or visit www.simcoemuskokahealth.org.”