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False Balance about Vaccines

We live in the land of free speech.

All of our opinions should have the same weight, right?

Well, opinions yes.

Facts no.

Too often now, people are given the opportunity to express their non-professional opinions as facts, often head-to-head with experts, falsely making it seem like those opinions are equally valid.

Or it could even be a professional opinion, but it is still false balance if 99.9% of the professionals in the same field have the opposite opinion.

This type of false balance or false equivalency comes up when discussing many different topics, especially in science and politics.

For example, in a debate about science, you would be providing false balance if you gave an equal amount of time to those who believed that the earth was flat, that gravity isn’t real, or that the moon was made of cheese. Climate change is an even bigger topic that we still see a lot of false balance in the media.

“…it is important to recognise that the balance of media reporting does not necessarily reflect the balance of the argument among the involved professionals – by this is meant that equal weighting might be given by the media (and thus the lay community) to those for and against the vaccine although opponents of vaccination might be a very small number, as for example happened with both pertussis and MMR.”

David Baxter on Opposition to Vaccination and Immunisation the UK Experience – from Smallpox to MMR

False balance is especially common when the media discusses vaccines.

False Balance about Vaccines

How often do you read an article or see a news report about a measles outbreak or an infant dying of pertussis, and then see it end with a parent who thinks vaccines are associated with autism?

Vaccines are safe, effective, and necessary. This has been proven time and again.

“There are issues that are not a matter of free thought, on which all opinions have the same weight. This is simply because they are not just ideas, but facts. The safety of vaccines is a fact, as well as their importance for preventing dangerous diseases.”

Robert Villa on Vaccines: a case study of false balance on TV

When you see Bob Sears or Jay Gordon or other ‘vaccine experts’ on the news, you aren’t hearing from doctors with an equally valid view, backed up with scientific research, as vaccine experts from the CDC, FDA, or AAP.

Bob Sears appeared on Fox & Friends in 2010 for the segment "Vaccines: A Bad Combination?"
Bob Sears appeared on Fox & Friends in 2010 for the segment “Vaccines: A Bad Combination?”

Doctors who push parent-selected, delayed protection vaccine schedules have anecdotal data and their own opinions, which many real vaccine experts view as dangerous.

What To Know About False Balance and Vaccines

False balance is dangerous. It not only scares parents from vaccinating their kids, but leads them away from standard treatments for asthma, eczema, and even cancer, often with tragic results.

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