There is a lot of medical information, including vaccine information, available on the internet these days. Not everything on the internet is accurate, though, and it can be hard to tell what information you can trust and what information you cannot.
There are a few simple ways that you can determine if the vaccine information or news you find online is accurate. There are also a couple of red flags you can look for that should alert you to vaccine misinformation. If you still aren’t sure, the best thing to do is talk to your healthcare provider.
Where can I get reputable information about vaccination for adults?
Some of the best places to find reputable vaccine information online are websites that belong to the following categories. All of the linked websites below will have accurate vaccine information as well as the latest vaccine news.
Scientific and medical organizations
Examples of national and international medical organizations include the:
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- World Health Organization (WHO)
- Immunization Action Coalition (IAC)
Academic institutions are universities or hospitals. These can include your local university or hospital, or any well-known medical center in the country.
Professional medical groups
Professional medical groups are often called societies, colleges, or academies. Examples include the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Where can I get reputable information about vaccination for kids?
Many of the sources mentioned above, such as the CDC and the WHO, have reputable information about vaccination for both kids and adults. But there are resources that have reliable vaccine information specifically for kids. These include websites maintained by the American Academy of Pediatrics, such as Healthychildren.org. The websites of children’s hospitals are another good source, such as the:
Additionally, the IAC has a list of websites, books, apps, and videos that can help parents find the answers to their questions about vaccines.
What makes trusted websites different from other websites?
The information on trusted websites is written by medical experts and is based on peer-reviewed science. This means that other independent experts in the field reviewed the scientific evidence behind the information and accepted it as valid. Peer-review significantly increases credibility.
Trusted websites often clearly list the research studies that support the posted information, along with the names and credentials of the scientists who did the research. This means that you can easily find the research and read it for yourself if you have questions or want more detailed information. Trusted websites also review their information regularly and update the website once new information becomes available.
What’s the easiest way to spot false information about vaccines?
It can be difficult to know if the information you find online is credible. The easiest way to spot incorrect information is to look at the source closely. Ask yourself:
- Who is the author?
- What are their credentials?
- Do they reference articles or research studies that support the claims?
The information is more likely to be inaccurate if:
- There is no clear author.
- The author has no obvious credentials, or the credentials are not related to vaccine expertise.
- No research studies are mentioned.
It is also important to check other sources when evaluating any source of information. Do other sources, especially trusted websites, agree with this information? If not, then the information you are evaluating may not be accurate.
Sometimes, even trusted information sources may not completely agree with one another. This may be especially true when it comes to information on new diseases, medications, or treatments, because scientific evidence for new diseases or developing treatments often changes rapidly. This is another reason why it is important to look closely at all sources, including the evidence for their claims, even with trusted websites.
What are some red flags to watch out for when researching vaccines?
When evaluating a source of information online, first look at the type of website. Different types of websites have different types of web addresses. An easy way to tell is by looking at the end of the web address. Here are some examples:
- .edu means the website belongs to an academic institution, like a university.
- .gov indicates a government website.
- .org means the website belongs to a non-profit group.
- .com means the website belongs to a for-profit company.
It is helpful to understand the type of website that you are evaluating because some types of websites may be more likely to have accurate information than others. Websites belonging to the government and universities may be more likely to have trusted information that is written by experts and reviewed regularly.
Websites that belong to private companies, organizations, or individual people may be more likely to have red flags that can alert you to misinformation.
Possible red flags include:
- There is no obvious author.
- The author does not have valid credentials.
- The author or organization appears to have a conflict of interest or is one-sided.
- The information is not updated with the latest news or evidence.
- There is no scientific evidence listed.
- The information contains spelling errors.
What can I do if the information I have doesn’t agree with what trusted organizations say?
If you come across information that does not agree with what trusted organizations say, first examine your source of information closely, as we discussed, and look for red flags. After that, use your judgment. Ask yourself:
- What is different about this information?
- Is it backed up by scientific evidence?
If the answers to these questions are problematic, then consider whether the source of the information has a conflict of interest or a reason to present biased information.
How can I talk to my family about vaccines if they are skeptical?
Sometimes, the source of vaccine information or misinformation may come from a family member or friend who is skeptical about vaccination. If that is the case, there are a couple of things you can do:
- First, hear them out and acknowledge their concerns or point of view.
- Ask them what evidence they would want to see to feel less hesitant.
- Show them how to evaluate websites and look for credible authors backed by scientific evidence.
- Ask them to compare their source of information to trusted websites and teach them about red flags.
- If they’ve evaluated the website and considered the red flags and yet are still unsure if the vaccine information is credible, encourage them to talk to their doctor or a trusted healthcare professional.
The bottom line
There is a lot of vaccine information and misinformation on the internet. It is not always easy to tell which information is truthful and which is not. The best way to tell if vaccine information is credible is to examine the type of website it comes from and check if there is scientific evidence that supports the information. If the evidence is easy to find and the information matches what other trusted websites say, it is likely to be credible.