Study Says Anti-Vaccination Sites Use Distorted Science
A study at Johns Hopkins University that evaluated nearly 500 anti-vaccination websites concluded that the sites use pseudoscience and misinformation to promote an anti-vaccine agenda.
The researchers used four search engines – Google, Bing, Yahoo and Ask Jeeves – to find anti-vaccine sites using terms such as “vaccine dangers,” and “immunization dangers.”
Their final list included 480 anti-vaccination websites, ranging from personal blogs to Facebook pages, and even some health websites.
Their findings, presented at the American Public Health Association’s annual meeting in Chicago, showed that nearly two-thirds of the websites claimed that vaccines cause autism. Multiple studies, however, have shown that there is no link between vaccines and autism.
About two-thirds of the sites presented false information as scientific evidence to support their claims, according to the researchers. About one-third used personal anecdotes to reinforce their claims.
Additionally, some sites cited actual peer-reviewed studies as their sources, but the Johns Hopkins researchers said they misinterpreted and misrepresented the findings of the studies. For instance, some sites showed that as the rates of immunizations went up over a span of time, so did autism diagnoses. But that correlation does not mean causation – some things just happen at the same time.
The researchers said these findings highlight the need for health professionals to communicate more effectively with parents who may be hesitant to vaccinate their children.