Oh lawd oh lawd.

Some folks at Emory investigated the differences in understanding vaccines between parents who got a lot of vaccine info from the internet, and parents who didnt.

Oh lawd.

Parents’ Source of Vaccine Information and Impact on Vaccine Attitudes, Beliefs, and Nonmedical Exemptions

The good news is, this article is Open Access.  The bad news is, this means you all can read the paper and smash your heads into a wall with me.  YAAAAAAAaaaay…

First– a bit of translation that might help you read this paper– ‘Adjusted Odds Ratio’.  Simply, if it is ‘1’, or the ‘confidence interval’ overlaps ‘1’ (like, 0.85, CI 0.77-1.06), then there was NO difference between the two groups (internet users vs non-internet users).  If the aOR is not ‘1’ (like 1.33, CI 1.29-6.22 or 0.47, CI 0.20-0.59) then the two groups are different.  For example:

Internet users were significantly more likely than parents who did not use the Internet to believe that the National Vaccine Information Center was a good or excellent source of vaccine information (aOR, 1.69, 95% CI, 1.12–2.55).

1.69 CI 1.12-2.55 does not overlap ‘1’, which means that parents who use the internet are more likely to rate the National Vaccine Information Center (aka anti-vaxers) are a super-de-dooper source for vaccine info than people who dont get their vaccine info from the internet.


Now that you have an example, you know what this means:

Internet users were also more likely to regard alternative healthcare providers (aOR, 1.55; 95% CI, 1.12–2.14) as a good or excellent source of information. Internet users were less likely than non-Internet users to consider the following good or excellent sources of vaccine information: healthcare providers (aOR, 0.59; 95% CI, 0.42–0.85), Vaccine Information Statements (aOR, 0.49; 95% CI, 0.35–0.69), professional organizations (aOR, 0.56; 95% CI, 0.39–0.80), local or state health departments (aOR, 0.60; 95% CI, 0.43–0.84), and the CDC (aOR, 0.57; 95% CI, 0.39–0.83) (Table 1).

Parents who use the internet for vaccine info are more likely to think this:

‘Alternative health care providers, such as chiropractors or acupuncturists’?  THOSE ARE PROFESSIONALS EDUCATED IN SCIENCE AND MEDICINE! I TRUST THEIR INFORMATION ABOUT VACCINATION!

Heathcare providers, vaccine information statements from their physician, professional organizations, local/state heath departments, and the CDC?  BOOOOOOOO!!!


There is a bright light in Table 1, though!  Neither group gives a rats ass what ‘religious leaders and organizations’ thinks about vaccines.  Yay?

This group also reenforced some stereotypes I have about casual anti-vaxers (more likely to have higher education, higher income, aka porcelain princesses who have no idea how good they have it in the industrialized world).

As one would expect, the parents who get their awesome vaccine info from trusted sources like ‘anti-vax groups’ and ‘acupuncturists’ (NOT THOSE SCREWY IMMUNOLOGISTS!) know something between ‘jack’ and ‘squat’ about vaccines.  They are more likely to agree with these statements:

  • Children get more immunizations than are good for them
  • I am concerned that children’s immune system could be weakened by too many immunizations
  • Healthy children do not need immunizations
  • Immunizations do more harm than good
  • I am opposed to immunization requirements because they go against freedom of choice
  • I am opposed to immunization requirements because parents know what is best for their children
  • Parents should be allowed to send their children to school even if not vaccinated

And disagree with these statements:

  • Vaccines strengthen the immune system
  • Immunization requirements protect children from getting diseases from unimmunized children

Also, they dont think that children or the community benefit from vaccines.  That is because they are totally clueless about the odds of a child getting a vaccine-preventable-communicable disease, and the utility and safety of vaccinations.

There are limits to the kinds of conclusions we can draw from this paper, and the authors point them out in their discussion (maybe only the parents who are really passionate far/against vaccines returned their survey. maybe parents are anti-vax first, and go to the internet and ‘alternative’ practitioners second, because theyre the only resources that support their bias.)

But they do have a nice conclusion– We need to get information about vaccines on the internet, from lots of  different voices, in lots of different formats.  So whether youve got a science blag or youre just cruising around on Facebook, something you say might lead someone to good information and a real trustable resource.  A friend of mine (non-scientist) ‘deconverted’ a friend of his from believing National Vaccine Information Center on Facebook last week.  We all can have a beneficial impact on vaccine information on the internet 😀


  1. #1 Bryan
    October 22, 2012

    And disagree with these statements:
    Vaccines strengthen the immune system

    Speaking as an immunologist, disagreeing with this statement is technically correct – although not for the reasons the anti-vaxers expect.

    Vaccination does not increase the strength of an immune response against a pathogen; it simply teaches your immune system to recognize the pathogen before the immune system is exposed to the actual pathogen. This is a good thing, as it normally takes 10-14 days to get a full-blown response the first time you see a pathogen, but only a few days if you’ve seen the pathogen before. In other words, having a vaccine gives your immune system a “memory” of the pathogen it can then access for future immune responses.

    The strength of that response, however, is often less with a vaccine than a real infection. Likewise, vaccination against one disease does not strengthen your immune response against other pathogens.

  2. #2 Grant
    October 23, 2012

    I’ve tried various things myself. Without boring you with all the things I’ve tried, my latest concern has been a lack of places outside of the anti-vax forums for parents to discuss vaccines. More good sources of information are static web pages.

    I suggested approaching science forums and asking and more recently I’ve tried promoting the local Immune Advisory Centre’s discussion forum – with a disappointing lack of interest. It’s a pity as they’re one of the few “professional” groups I’ve seen offer a forum like that.

  3. #3 Dean Fox
    October 28, 2012

    There should be a study in to why people seem to distrust scientists as oppose to pseudo-scientists. Is it because scientists are seen are part of “the establishment” or “big pharma”.

    It both cracks me up and bothers me somewhat what people are prepared to believe. Apparently con trails from airplanes are chemical sprays. Seriously if “they” wanted to experiment on populations there are less obvious methods of distribution that wouldn’t leave vapour trails across the sky.

  4. #4 starskeptic
    November 4, 2012

    Dean –
    Not only a distrust of scientists but a huge misunderstanding of just what science is…

  5. #5 Kathy
    November 13, 2012

    Great job to your friend for deconverting someone from NVIC. I try to deconvert people, too. Just found your blog and am enjoying it.


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