Background: A growing number of consumers turn to the Internet for information to make health care decisions, including decisions on immunization. While there are many credible websites on immunization issues offered by federal, state, and local governments and other sectors, the speed and reach of information on the Internet also has fueled opportunities for consumers to be misinformed about vaccines. Focus groups conducted in November 2009 with mothers regarding pediatric immunization indicated many of the participants were supportive of immunization but nearly all had questions about vaccines they felt were not being answered by their health care providers, online resources, media, or peers. From these focus groups stemmed the idea for a single online resource offering a complete portrait of vaccine issues from development to licensure to administration.
Setting: Telephone-based focus groups, online usability testing, Internet-based information.
Population: Consumers seeking immunization information on the Internet, specifically mothers ages 22-55 or those caring for aging parents.
Project Description: Vaccines.gov is a federal government website offering vaccine and immunization information for consumers. The website draws content from across the Department of Health and Human Services, using content syndication technology to easily incorporate information from other government health websites—a model pioneered by Flu.gov. The site presents information reflecting the importance of immunization across the lifespan from children to seniors, with a particular focus on orienting consumers toward the benefits of vaccines and reestablishing social norms around immunization.
Results/Lessons Learned: Immunization information offered by federal government websites should be standardized to provide consistency in messaging, particularly on issues consumers search for or are the subject of misinformation such as vaccines safety, ingredients, and side effects. Federal immunization websites and content should be oriented to answer consumer questions quickly and direct them to credible online resources to learn more.