Anti-vax stretching the facts, study finds

A NEW study has found at least two-thirds of anti-vaccination websites present anecdotal and misinformation as 'scientific evidence' to push the view that vaccinations are dangerous to children.

Researchers analysed the content of nearly 500 anti-vaccination websites and found just under two-thirds suggest vaccines are responsible for autism and just over four in 10 claim vaccines cause "brain injury".

Need to communicate

Bloomberg School Department of Health, Behaviour and Society associate professor and lead author of the study, Meghan Moran said the biggest takeaway from the study was the need to communicate to the vaccine-hesitant parents in a way that resonates with them.

"In our review, we saw communication for things we consider healthy, such as breastfeeding, eating organic, the types of behaviour public health officials want to encourage," she said.

"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."

Search engine research

For the study, researchers used four internet search engines - Google, Bing, Yahoo and Ask Jeeves - typing in terms like "immunization dangers" and "vaccine danger" and other Google trends.

A team of four coders coded the content, which included a mix of personal websites, blogs, Facebook pages and health websites, for the vaccine misinformation presented, the source of misinformation and the types of persuasive tactics used.

One positive was the anti-vaccination sites promotion of positive behaviour like eating healthy, 18.5% of sites, eating organic, 5.2%, and breastfeeding, 5.5%.

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