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Aust N Z J Public Health. 2010 Oct;34(5):521-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-6405.2010.00601.x.

Fact or fallacy? Immunisation arguments in the New Zealand print media.

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Department of General Practice & Primary Health Care, The University of Auckland, New Zealand.



To explore New Zealand's four major daily newspapers' coverage of immunisation with regards to errors of fact and fallacy in construction of immunisation-related arguments.


All articles from 2002 to 2007 were assessed for errors of fact and logic. Fact was defined as that which was supported by the most current evidence-based medical literature. Errors of logic were assessed using a classical taxonomy broadly based in Aristotle's classifications.


Numerous errors of both fact and logic were identified, predominantly used by anti-immunisation proponents, but occasionally by health authorities. The proportion of media articles reporting exclusively fact changes over time during the life of a vaccine where new vaccines incur little fallacious reporting and established vaccines generate inaccurate claims. Fallacious arguments can be deconstructed and classified into a classical taxonomy including non sequitur and argumentum ad Hominem.


Most media 'balance' given to immunisation relies on 'he said, she said' arguments using quotes from opposing spokespersons with a failure to verify the scientific validity of both the material and the source.


Health professionals and media need training so that recognising and critiquing public health arguments becomes accepted practice: stronger public relations strategies should challenge poor quality articles to journalists' code of ethics and the health sector needs to be proactive in predicting and pre-empting the expected responses to introduction of new public health initiatives such as a new vaccine.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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