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Pinterest searches about vaccines will surface content from public health organizations

There's a "reasonable chance" the US will lose the measles elimination status in October because of ongoing measles outbreaks in New York, according to Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

Posted: Aug 28, 2019 11:07 AM
Updated: Aug 28, 2019 2:30 PM

Pinterest searches for 'measles', 'vaccine safety' and other vaccine-related content will only return results from public health organizations, the social media company announced Wednesday.

Last year, Pinterest stopped showing search results related to vaccines in order to the prevent the spread of harmful health misinformation.

Searching Pinterest now only shows results from institutions such as the World Health Organization, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the WHO-established Vaccine Safety Net.

'We're taking this approach because we believe that showing vaccine misinformation alongside resources from public health experts isn't responsible,' Ifeoma Ozoma, Pinterest's public policy and social impact manager said in a statement. 'As we continue to tackle health misinformation, we remove it and the accounts that spread it from our service.'

No recommendations or comments will appear on Pins in these results and it won't show ads.

The company said the new search experience is available now in English on its website and its mobile apps.

Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told CNN this week that social media changes could 'help us turn the tide' on vaccine misinformation. Still, Messonnier said there's a 'reasonable chance' the United States will lose its measles elimination status in October because of ongoing measles outbreaks in New York.

Messonnier said she and her colleagues were surprised by the influence social media had on vaccines.

'I do think it caught us all a little flat-footed -- how quickly the myths and misinformation spread,' she said. 'Of course, I wish I had 20/20 hindsight and had figured this out a couple of years ago.'

In a statement, WHO said social media is how many people get their information and 'they will likely be major sources of information for the next generations of parents.' It noted that vaccine misinformation has spread on social media in many countries, 'including during critical vaccination campaigns like those for polio in Pakistan or yellow fever in South America.'

WHO estimates that vaccines save at least 2 million lives every year.

'The World Health Organization welcomes Pinterest's leadership in protecting public health by only providing evidence-based information about vaccines to its users. We hope to see other social media platforms around the world following Pinterest's lead,' the WHO statement said.

'We see this as a critical issue and one that needs our collective effort to protect people's health and lives.'

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