ATLANTA - Today's media capabilities and the Internet are wonderful tools for making information widely and rapidly available, but they also make readily available information that is not reviewed for scientific accuracy.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released tips on how to determine if vaccine information found on the Internet or in other sources is accurate. Passing this information on to concerned parents will hopefully help them make accurately informed decisions.
First, the CDC recommends checking to see if the ownership of the site is clear. The name of the organization or individual posting the information should be in clear view. Look for highlighted text that provides more about the author of the site. In some programs, the ownership can be found by clicking "view" and then "document source" or "document information."
Second, the information provided should be based on sound scientific study. Scientists discover truth by testing their findings repeatedly. A mark of sound scientific study is that the findings are endorsed by groups or institutions dedicated to science, such as professional associations or universities.
Third, the site should carefully weigh the evidence and acknowledge the limitations of the work. The CDC cited an example about the weight of the evidence: If the first conclusion is found in three studies, but the second conclusion is found in 30 studies, which is more likely to point to truth?
The CDC also advises to be wary of people who proclaim that they, and only they, have discovered the "hidden truth." The scientific approach takes time, and often answers are slow in coming or do not come at all. This can be very frustrating if the answers will have an impact on children or adults' health and well-being. Solid researchers, however, are not afraid to address the weaknesses as well as the strengths of their findings.
The fourth tip is to beware of "junk science" and suggestions of "conspiracies." The hallmarks of junk science are hasty, and often sensational, claims that other scientists have not seen, reviewed, or verified. Media attention does not necessarily mean a claim is true.
Fifth, the individuals or group providing the information should be qualified to address the subject matter. Beware of information attributed to unnamed "noted researchers" or "world-renowned scientists."
For tip No. 6, CDC advises that arguments should be based on facts and not conjecture. Beware of Web sites that mix fact with fantasy, without distinguishing between the two. As with junk science, the resulting "theories" can be sensational but are not scientifically sound.
Making sure the motives of the site are clear is the seventh tip on determining what information from the Internet is accurate. Investigate whether the site is a sales or promotional device.
Eighth, the information provided should make sense. Make sure it isn't too good to be true or too awful to be true. The CDC cited the following examples: "Rub peanut butter on your knees and you'll never have cancer!" or "Millions die when injected with vaccines!"
Next is to make sure the site contains references from and to recognized peer-reviewed publications.
Tip No. 10 is to be sure additional information is available if needed. Check for an e-mail or postal address, telephone number, a reading list or source list and if the information is available through a public library.
If government documents or publications are referenced, they are usually available free or at low cost through the publishing agency or the Superintendent, Government Printing Office, in Washington, D.C., toll-free telephone (888) 293-6498; fax (202) 512-1262.
This list of helpful tips can be found at www.cdc.gov/od/nvop/people.htm.
Children Who Have Received Immunizations
|Vaccine||In Head Start programs||In licensed day care facilities||K-1st grade|
Despite the large amount of false and negative material
found on the Web, there are plenty of people who stand behind immunizations and
standard health care measures. Because of this, American parents get their
children immunized. In 1997 levels among children are at their highest ever.
This chart from the National Immunization Program shows the average percentage
of children who had received their childhood vaccinations during the 1995-1996
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