Vaccine Education Websites: Which Ones Offer Truth?

March 17, 2017
Terry Brenneman, MD

Not all vaccine information websites were created with evidence-based medicine in mind. Which of these would you recommend to patients?

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_crop","fid":"57695","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image media-image-right","id":"media_crop_2736598496323","media_crop_h":"0","media_crop_image_style":"-1","media_crop_instance":"7268","media_crop_rotate":"0","media_crop_scale_h":"0","media_crop_scale_w":"0","media_crop_w":"0","media_crop_x":"0","media_crop_y":"0","style":"float: right; height: 197px; width: 300px;","title":" ","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]I used to think that the Hallmark card company was responsible for most of our “special days” (Nurse’s Day, Grandparent’s Day, etc.) in an attempt to sell more cards. Then, once they figured out they could please a group of constituents without having to spend any money, the politicians got involved.  What I haven’t figured out is why one group gets a special day, another gets a week, and some get a whole month. March is, for example, Ovarian Cancer awareness month, but Eating Disorders only get a week in February, and the World Encephalitis cause is limited to a single day on February 22nd.

One essential vaccination subject that is given its due and makes it to the CDC website is National Infant Immunization Week. This year it runs fromApril 22-29. Listed on the CDC's website page are a number of things medical practices and groups can do to help promote childhood vaccinations. For example, 13 different short Facebook posts with links to specific CDC websites can be copied and pasted. A media toolkit has been put together should you like to do an op-ed piece or even just a letter to the editor of your local paper.

Other things you might want to share on your office Facebook page or website are reputable websites for medical information on vaccines. But before you share them, would you recognize them?

Three of the following websites are NOT reliable sources of evidence-based medicine in regards to vaccines. Can you pick them out?

A. Autism Science Foundation 

B. Voices for Vaccines

C. Vaccine Impact

D. American College of Pediatricians 

E. National Vaccine Information Center

Answer and details on these Web sites on next page>>

 

Answers and details

(+) A. TheAutism Science Foundation is a great site for parents and providers interested in autism. They are pro-vaccine and have a 4-page model for talking to hesitant parents about vaccine safety. They also have a list of and links to both scientific and lay articles on vaccine safety.

(+) B. The subtitle for Voices for Vaccines is “Parents speaking up for immunization.” This site is valuable for parents and providers. Again, specific advice on how to do an op-ed piece with suggested topics is listed. Parents can read anecdotes (used so frequently and powerfully by anti-vaxxers) from parents who had refused to have their child vaccinated only to have their child contract a vaccine preventable disease.

(-) C. TheVaccine Impact web site is part of a larger Internet presence called Health Impact News whose editors pride themselves on covering “stories on vaccine safety that are censored in mainstream media” and “investigative reporting on issues challenging the monopoly on medicine that is controlled by government agencies such as the FDA, CDC, NIH, and others.” I find the site scary in the sense that they will pick parts out of a valid study and then distort the significance and/or the conclusion of the authors. But, to a lay person, it all looks very scientific.

(-) D. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is the respected group that most pediatricians join and has a membership of about 60,000. The American College of Pediatricians is a group of about 500 that was formed when the AAP voiced support for adoption by gay couples. The group considers itself “pro-vaccine,” but the web site does list a lot of concerns over the HPV vaccine and anti-vaccine sites often quote this site.

(-) E. The National Vaccine Information Center, despite its name, has nothing to do with the government and  is not a source of reliable information about vaccines and vaccination. It grew out of a group formed in the 1980s called “Dissatisfied Parents Together” whose members felt the whole cell DPT shot was injuring some children. It is arguably the most powerful and vocal antivaccine group in the United States. Its site has a special section titled “International Memorial for Vaccine Victims honoring those lives that have been lost or forever changed by vaccination.” At least this group does not try to hide its bias, unlike the “Vaccine Impact” site that shrouds itself in pseudoscience.

Perhaps we should have a “Surfing the Web for Vaccine Information” day dedicated to helping the public find the reliable sites and to recognize the ones with an ax to grind.

 

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