Chicago – Numerous websites are using false scientific evidence to promote an anti-vaccine philosophy, as revealed by a study presented on Tuesday at the American Public Health Association’s Annual Meeting in Chicago. By analyzing their content the researchers found that they proclaim that vaccines cause disorders that affect one’s communication and social skills.
There is a lot of misinformation among nearly 500 blogs, Facebook pages and health websites, which were found by using search engines such as Google, Bing, Yahoo and Ask Jeeves. The researchers typed terms like “vaccine danger”, “immunization dangers” and others were provided by Google Trends.
Researchers found that anti-vaccine messages are being used with highly effective persuasion techniques in order to spread the idea that vaccines lead to serious diseases, especially among children. 65 percent of the studied websites affirm that vaccines are dangerous, cause autism (62.2 percent) and brain injury (41.1 percent). Not only did the websites used scientific evidence (64.7 percent), but they also used anecdotes (30 percent) to argue their case. The persuasion tactics took values like choice, freedom and individuality into account.
Scientists certify that by avoiding vaccines children increase the risk to get sickened from potentially fatal diseases. They insist on the idea that risks of outbreaks raise when people in general are not vaccinated.
Although the scientific evidence used by the websites were real, researchers discovered that it was misinterpreted and misrepresented so they could make people believe that vaccines led to serious health issues. The scientific data was indeed solid, but the interpretation was imprecise, as explained by study author Meghan Moran, an associate professor in Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School’s Department of Health, Behavior and Society.
Mistaking correlation for causation was one of the most common mistakes researchers discovered in their investigation. Some of the websites involved in the study showed that rates of immunization and autism diagnoses increased simultaneously. “Just because two things happen at the same time, that doesn’t mean that one is causing the other,” Moran commented. Even though it is true that those events raised over the same period of time, it is false that the immunizations were causing autism, according to Moran.
Health officials and researchers agree that they “need to communicate to the vaccine-hesitant parents in a way that resonates with them and is sensitive to their concerns,” declared Moran in a statement.