, Volume 172, Issue 3, pp 401-404

How reliable is the Internet for caregivers on their decision to vaccinate their child against influenza? Results from googling in two languages

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Abstract

We have chosen Google, which is the most widely used search engine, to simulate a parent's experience in trying to find an answer on whether to have her/his child vaccinated against influenza. In doing this, we aimed to find out the chances that a parent with usual Internet searching tendencies may encounter right, wrong, and irrelevant answers in her/his search in the world wide web. We searched the Internet for an answer to the question “Should I make my child vaccinated against influenza?” by using the keywords “influenza”, “vaccine”, and “children” in two languages (English and Turkish). The “correct” answer was at least one clear statement meaning that annual influenza vaccination is recommended for all children (aged 6 months–18 years). Thirty-two of the 112 websites and 45 of the 103 websites had the correct answer, whereas 24 and 46 websites contained incorrect information in English and Turkish searches, respectively. Only non-relevant information was found in 56 English and 12 Turkish websites. When the first page of search results were taken into account, correctness and incorrectness were observed in six and four English and four and six in Turkish websites, respectively. Our findings call for the urgent need to check public-oriented healthcare information on the Internet for accuracy, completeness, and consistency. We have arrived at a conclusion that the information on the Internet cannot and should not be a substitute for routine care by primary care physicians.