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Health Educ Res. 2013 Apr;28(2):352-9. doi: 10.1093/her/cys110. Epub 2012 Nov 27.

The effect of falsely balanced reporting of the autism-vaccine controversy on vaccine safety perceptions and behavioral intentions.

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Department of Communication, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14850, USA.


Controversy surrounding an autism-vaccine link has elicited considerable news media attention. Despite being widely discredited, research suggests that journalists report this controversy by presenting claims both for and against a link in a relatively 'balanced' fashion. To investigate how this reporting style influences judgments of vaccine risk, we randomly assigned 320 undergraduate participants to read a news article presenting either claims both for/against an autism-vaccine link, link claims only, no-link claims only or non-health-related information. Participants who read the balanced article were less certain that vaccines are safe, more likely to believe experts were less certain that vaccines are safe and less likely to have their future children vaccinated. Results suggest that balancing conflicting views of the autism-vaccine controversy may lead readers to erroneously infer the state of expert knowledge regarding vaccine safety and negatively impact vaccine intentions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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