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Vaccine. 2010 Feb 17;28(7):1709-16. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2009.12.022. Epub 2009 Dec 30.

A postmodern Pandora's box: anti-vaccination misinformation on the Internet.

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Department of Anthropology, Chester New Hall, McMaster University, 1280 Main St. W, Hamilton, Ontario L8S 4L8, Canada.


The Internet plays a large role in disseminating anti-vaccination information. This paper builds upon previous research by analyzing the arguments proffered on anti-vaccination websites, determining the extent of misinformation present, and examining discourses used to support vaccine objections. Arguments around the themes of safety and effectiveness, alternative medicine, civil liberties, conspiracy theories, and morality were found on the majority of websites analyzed; misinformation was also prevalent. The most commonly proposed method of combating this misinformation is through better education, although this has proven ineffective. Education does not consider the discourses supporting vaccine rejection, such as those involving alternative explanatory models of health, interpretations of parental responsibility, and distrust of expertise. Anti-vaccination protestors make postmodern arguments that reject biomedical and scientific "facts" in favour of their own interpretations. Pro-vaccination advocates who focus on correcting misinformation reduce the controversy to merely an "educational" problem; rather, these postmodern discourses must be acknowledged in order to begin a dialogue.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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