On Nov. 3, 2015, Meghan Moran and coworkers presented a paper at the American Public Health Association’s annual meeting titled, “Why are anti-vaccine messages so persuasive? A content analysis of anti-vaccine websites to inform the development of vaccine promotion strategies.” The authors evaluated the content of 480 anti-vaccine websites.
The authors’ findings were not surprising. About 65 percent of the websites stated that vaccines were dangerous; 62 percent that they caused autism; and 41 percent that they caused permanent brain damage. To support these claims, 65 percent of the websites cited “scientific” evidence, and 30 percent relied on parent testimonials. Continuing with their pseudoscientific themes, about 19 percent of the websites promoted alternative medicine and 10 percent promoted homeopathy. (Alternative medical industries such as dietary supplements to “cure” disorders like autism also often pay to advertise on many of these anti-vaccine websites).
Although the paper presented by Moran and coworkers does not provide information that should come as a shock to anyone who has followed this story (with the possible exception that there are almost 500 anti-vaccine sites), it does help to again focus on the issues at hand.