Physicians often cringe when patients come to them armed with an internet diagnosis.
Yet a new poll reveals that patients are increasingly going online after vaccination to ask about side effects, making it clear that more could be done to educate patients about the importance of vaccination and what to expect afterwards.
The poll conducted by the fee-based JustAnswer.com analyzed data on what visitors are searching on their site in terms of vaccines, and what questions they are asking of the site’s board-certified medical experts. JustAnswer is a fee-based service where individuals can ask more than 12,000 paid experts from 700 categories of advice. The poll data was retrieved from questions asked of the medical experts or from searches of articles on the site about vaccinations.
"Many patients, if they consider the flu vaccine at all, are most concerned with what they've heard about relating to possible side effects," Ralph Jennings, MD, a Lakeland, Florida-based family physician and one of JustAnswer's medical experts, told Medical Economics.
The poll showed 53% of visitors to the site searched or discussed with the site’s physician’s allergic reactions, rashes and/or itching associated with the flu shot, and another 19% complained of fatigue and general malaise after vaccination.
The analysis focused primarily on the flu vaccine, but also analyzed search data on other vaccinations. Researchers found that there was a 52% increase in general questions about vaccines from 2016 to 2017. Most of those questions (41%) were about the varicella—or chickenpox—vaccine. Questions about the flu vaccine came in second at 13% of the total vaccination questions, according to the poll. Another 12% of visitors to the site asked about hepatitis A/B vaccines, 10% about tetanus, 8% about shingles, 7% about Japanese encephalitis, 5% about rabies and 5% about other vaccines including the MMR and HPV vaccines.