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Anti-vaccine activists, Web 2.0, and the postmodern paradigm – An overview of tactics and tropes used online by the anti-vaccination movement

Published on May 1, 2012in Vaccine 3.27
· DOI :10.1016/j.vaccine.2011.11.112
Anna Kata5
Estimated H-index: 5
(McMaster University)
Abstract Websites opposing vaccination are prevalent on the Internet. Web 2.0, defined by interaction and user-generated content, has become ubiquitous. Furthermore, a new postmodern paradigm of healthcare has emerged, where power has shifted from doctors to patients, the legitimacy of science is questioned, and expertise is redefined. Together this has created an environment where anti-vaccine activists are able to effectively spread their messages. Evidence shows that individuals turn to the Internet for vaccination advice, and suggests such sources can impact vaccination decisions – therefore it is likely that anti-vaccine websites can influence whether people vaccinate themselves or their children. This overview examines the types of rhetoric individuals may encounter online in order to better understand why the anti-vaccination movement can be convincing, despite lacking scientific support for their claims. Tactics and tropes commonly used to argue against vaccination are described. This includes actions such as skewing science, shifting hypotheses, censoring dissent, and attacking critics; also discussed are frequently made claims such as not being “anti-vaccine” but “pro-safe vaccines”, that vaccines are toxic or unnatural, and more. Recognizing disingenuous claims made by the anti-vaccination movement is essential in order to critically evaluate the information and misinformation encountered online.
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  • References (79)
  • Citations (269)
Published on Sep 13, 2011
Dan Olmsted1
Estimated H-index: 1
3 Citations
Published on Sep 1, 2011in Medical Decision Making 2.79
Cornelia Betsch16
Estimated H-index: 16
Corina Ulshöfer2
Estimated H-index: 2
+ 1 AuthorsTilmann Betsch24
Estimated H-index: 24
Background. Health-related information found on the Internet is increasing and impacts patient decision making, e.g. regarding vaccination decisions. In addition to statistical information (e.g. incidence rates of vaccine adverse events), narrative information is also widely available such as postings on online bulletin boards. Previous research has shown that narrative information can impact treatment decisions, even when statistical information is presented concurrently. Objectives. As the det...
90 Citations Source Cite
Published on Feb 24, 2011in Vaccine 3.27
Sandra J. Bean2
Estimated H-index: 2
(OSU: Oregon State University)
Abstract Context Anti-vaccination websites appeal to persons searching the Internet for vaccine information that reinforces their predilection to avoid vaccination for themselves or their children. Few published studies have systematically examined these sites. Objectives The aim of this study was to employ content analysis as a useful tool for examining and comparing anti-vaccination websites for recurring and changing emphases in content, design, and credibility themes since earlier anti-vacci...
90 Citations Source Cite
Published on Feb 21, 2011in BMJ 27.60
Clare Dyer14
Estimated H-index: 14
A new book from the United States about antivaccine campaigns will have its UK publication held up after a libel threat from Richard Barr, the solicitor who acted for children in the UK litigation over the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine. Basic Books, the book’s publisher, has agreed to remove a sentence suggesting that Mr Barr personally paid money to Andrew Wakefield, the doctor who hypothesised that the vaccine might cause autism, to carry out a study for the purpose of the MMR liti...
1 Citations Source Cite
Published on Jan 18, 2011in BMJ 27.60
Brian Deer7
Estimated H-index: 7
In the third part of a special BMJ series, Brian Deer reveals what happened when he reported misconduct in Andrew Wakefield’s MMR research to the medical journal that published it Preparing to give evidence in London to a UK General Medical Council fitness to practise panel, Richard Horton, editor of the Lancet , nodded in turn to three accused doctors, seated among their lawyers to his left. First, Simon Murch, almost close enough to touch. Next, John Walker-Smith, more distant. Finally, Andrew...
30 Citations Source Cite
Published on Jan 14, 2011in BMJ 27.60
Brian Deer7
Estimated H-index: 7
In the second part of a special BMJ series, Brian Deer reveals a secret scheme to raise huge sums from a campaign, launched at a London medical school, that claimed links between MMR, autism, and bowel disease
47 Citations Source Cite
Published on Jan 13, 2011in The New England Journal of Medicine 70.67
Gregory A. Poland57
Estimated H-index: 57
Robert M. Jacobson49
Estimated H-index: 49
Today, the most recent in a long line of antivaccinationists are using modern media to sway public opinion and distract attention from scientific evidence. But there are steps we can take to avert the ill effects of these campaigns.
134 Citations Source Cite
Published on Jan 11, 2011
Seth Mnookin1
Estimated H-index: 1
31 Citations
Published on Jan 5, 2011in BMJ 27.60
Brian Deer7
Estimated H-index: 7
In the first part of a special BMJ series, Brian Deer exposes the bogus data behind claims that launched a worldwide scare over the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine, and reveals how the appearance of a link with autism was manufactured at a London medical school
141 Citations Source Cite
Published on Dec 28, 2010
Paul A. Offit1
Estimated H-index: 1
65 Citations
Cited By269
Published on Oct 1, 2019in Learning and Instruction 3.92
Marianne Chevrier4
Estimated H-index: 4
(McGill University),
Krista R. Muis19
Estimated H-index: 19
(McGill University)
+ 2 AuthorsGale M. Sinatra36
Estimated H-index: 36
(SC: University of Southern California)
Abstract Across two studies, we evaluated a model that proposed relations between epistemic cognition, epistemic emotions, self-regulatory strategies, and learning of complex contradictory content. For Study 1, to capture epistemic cognition, epistemic emotions, and self-regulatory strategies, 114 undergraduate students thought out loud while reading conflicting texts about climate change. Protocol analysis revealed that epistemic aims, epistemic congruity, and appraisals of novelty and complexi...
1 Citations Source Cite
Published on Aug 1, 2019
Astrid Baumann , Berit Andersen18
Estimated H-index: 18
+ 1 AuthorsMette Bach Larsen8
Estimated H-index: 8
Abstract Background Vaccination against human papillomavirus (HPV) has been part of the Danish Childhood Vaccination Programme (CVP) since 2009 and initially had a high uptake. Following an intense public debate on the alleged side-effects to the vaccine in 2015, coverage rates declined dramatically leaving the current coverage at 54%. The main aim of this study was to identify differences in the sources of information and factors of importance in mothers’ decision to have or not to have their a...
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Published on Apr 8, 2019in Cognitive Processing 1.23
Sara Pluviano3
Estimated H-index: 3
(Edin.: University of Edinburgh),
Caroline Watt14
Estimated H-index: 14
(Edin.: University of Edinburgh)
+ 1 AuthorsSergio Della Sala50
Estimated H-index: 50
(Edin.: University of Edinburgh)
The main objective of this study was to determine whether one of the most commonly employed pro-vaccination strategies based on the “myths vs. facts” format can be considered an effective tool to counter vaccines misinformation. Sixty parents were randomly presented with either a control message or a booklet confronting some common myths about vaccines with a number of facts. Beliefs in the autism/vaccines link and in vaccines side effects, along with intention to vaccinate one’s child, were eva...
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Published on Feb 20, 2019in Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics 2.59
David B. Buller41
Estimated H-index: 41
Barbara J. Walkosz13
Estimated H-index: 13
+ 5 AuthorsKimberly L. Henry25
Estimated H-index: 25
(CSU: Colorado State University)
ABSTRACTIn the United States, parents’ health beliefs affect HPV vaccination decisions. Our team acquired insights into mothers’ health beliefs from their reactions and comments to posts on HPV vaccination in a social media adolescent health campaign in a randomized trial (n = 881 mothers; 63.1% reported daughters had 1+ doses of the HPV vaccine) evaluating communication intended to reduce daughters’ indoor tanning. A total of 10 HPV vaccination messages in didactic (n = 7) and narrative (n = 3)...
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Published on Jun 21, 2019in Memory & Cognition 1.95
Stephan Lewandowsky49
Estimated H-index: 49
John Cook14
Estimated H-index: 14
(GMU: George Mason University)
+ 1 AuthorsGilles E. Gignac25
Estimated H-index: 25
(UWA: University of Western Australia)
Internet blogs have become an important platform for the discussion of many scientific issues, including climate change. Blogs, and in particular the comment sections of blogs, also play a major role in the dissemination of contrarian positions that question mainstream climate science. The effect of this content on people’s attitudes is not fully understood. In particular, it is unknown how the interaction between the content of blog posts and blog comments affects readers’ attitudes. We report ...
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Published on Jun 3, 2019in Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics 2.59
Ashley Stephens (Columbia University), Chelsea Wynn (Columbia University), Melissa S. Stockwell19
Estimated H-index: 19
(Columbia University)
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