Vaccine dangers: Pseudoscience or fact?

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Anti-vaccine websites targeted by researchers

Scientists recently explored websites that claim vaccinations are dangerous. The hope is that researchers can better understand parental fears that childhood vaccines cause autism and brain injury.

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Meghan Moran, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found four out of ten anti-vaccine websites contained false information based on "pseudoscience" that vaccinations cause brain injury.

Just under two-thirds of websites claim vaccines cause autism. Two-thirds of websites searched on Google, Bing, Yahoo and Ask Jeeves use information that is not based on scientific evidence to support the notion that vaccinations are dangerous.

Many anti-vax websiies present a distorted view of research findings to promote the notion that vaccinations cause harm.

Moran says the information could help parents who are hesitant about having their children vaccinated. Many websites were found to promote other healthy behaviors such as breastfeeding and eating organic foods.

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"I think we can leverage these good things and reframe our communication in a way that makes sense to those parents resisting vaccines for their children, " Moran said in a press release.

Anti vaccine websites use pseudoscience

For the study, Moran and her team looked at a variety of anti-vaccine information from Facebook, health websites and personal blogs that they coded for the source of vaccine misinformation and the type of persuasive tactics used to convince parents that childhood vaccines are dangerous.

Moran presented her findings at the American Public Health Association's Annual Meeting, November 3.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

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