Monday, July 09, 2007

Update on Google, Where Anti-Immunisation Pseudoscience Reigns

Immunisation images, advertising and commemoration
At the beginning of 2007, Medgagdget ran some interesting vaccination searches on Google. The results of their investigations were dispiriting. At the time, there were some suggestions that the medical/healthcare blogging communities might take some concerted action to change these search results and various ideas were floated. So, a little more than 6 months on, and in the light of a resurgence of news about Andrew Wakefield in the UK and the Autism Omnibus Hearings in the US, has anything changed?

I repeated Medgadget's searches, using their search terms, on Google.com. Medgadget originally reported:
To see what's going on, one does not have to go far. Goggle's [sic] search for 'vaccination' returns 10 results on its first page. Of them, two are from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). One result from Wikipedia that has some questionable statements , such as "...the overall effect might, in theory, be to cause more deaths than before the vaccination was introduced." The remaining seven results are from vaccination-haters and moonbats that accuse governments, pharmaceutical companies, the medical lobby, you name it, of untold millions of dead children. The second page of the vaccination search is even worse.

If you wish to refine your 'vaccination' search to see results from the medical authorities, you get whopping 54 results. Alternative medicine search returns 942 results. Strong medicine by peasants for peasants, as we say around here.

Do we need to tell you about 'vaccination risks' search? The results (from the CDC, NIH, and the FDA) are all comfortably on the bottom. The top of the Google page is occupied by such luminaries as Vaccine Risk Awareness Network, a member of the Committee Against Compulsory Vaccination; whale.to, a URL that says "the primary cause of encephalitis...... is the childhood vaccination program..."); and The Healing Center On-Line, a place that does not have to be quoted.

Results for 9 July, 17:00-18:00

vaccination returns are as follows:
  1. Wikipedia, although this entry has been edited recently and seems better than it was; the reality of Wikipedia is that it is difficult to know for how long this will be true
  2. CDC Travelers' Health which is concerned (perhaps understandably following the recent TB story) with travelers' health rather than childhood vaccination issues. Searchers would need to select More results before they would find items about childhood vaccination and they are not the top entries
  3. whale.to makes its appearance at no. 3 and the remainder of the top 10 are kith and kin to Medgadget's previous findings, except for a brave showing by the New York Times at no. 7
Thereafter, the results are mixed with some familiar moonbats and some medical resources. One of the difficulties is that so many of the whale.to rant-alike sites use the terms honest, reliable and unbiased (e.g., vaccination news that is sponsoring an online conference that will explore whether shaken baby syndrome is a misdiagnosis for vaccine injury (see Orac on this)) that it is effectively code for anti-vax sites, so it is a tad unfortunate that their presence meant that I almost missed the seemingly sensible lists of members that contribute to vaccine.org.

Results 9 July 19:00

vaccination results from the medical authorities returns 46 results which is a drop of around 15%. CDC Travelers' Health is no. 1 again, but, this time, there are no more results available. The drop in numbers wouldn't matter if the results were more relevant or targeted to the general reader but they're not.

The numbers for the vaccination + alternative medicine search have crept up to 1,000 results. Perhaps understandably, 9 of the 10 top results feature homeopathic alternatives; the holdout on this first page is Quackwatch item at no. 7. So, perhaps, given the nature of homeopathic dilution, the results indicate less emphasis on "Strong medicine by peasants for peasants" than Medgadget's previous results.

The results for vaccination risks were interesting. Overall, it looks like this may be worse. They were dispiriting, because the first site that looked reasonable is at no. 5 but it turned out to be concerned with pet vaccination. The list is dominated by those who argue for the point of view that vaccination is an instrument for genocide, health care professionals are all pharma shills or conspiracists and other such run of the mill fodder before they reach for the hyperbole.
  1. Vaccine Risk Awareness Network, of course it is
  2. whale.to keeps up its strong showing in such matters
  3. Worldwide Health Center was new to me. But let's just say that it includes Drs Gallo (the spread of Aids and the vaccination programme are linked) and Kalokerinos (vaccination-induced scurvy and death) amongst others.
The FDA shows up at no. 6. The remainder of the entries are a mixed bag; the more conventional offerings are, again, not particularly relevant or readable. The CDC doesn't make it to the front page with childhood vaccination, it's sole entry is concerned, again, with travel vaccinations. The CDC entry on vaccine safety does appear until no. 27 (and involves a re-direct). All in all, there is a very poor showing from governmental or medical institutions; they do not seem to provide adequate material on the web for parents who may be investigating this matter and who may well be searching by using such terms.

Medgadget's other searches are still dominated by anti-vax entries although vaccine + side + effects seems to have improved because CDC makes it to no. 1 albeit, this is another re-direct.

Regrettably, immunization + risks is still dominated by anti-vax sites with another pole position for VRAN. There are some medical or governmental sites on the top page and beyond, but, again, they may not be well-targeted.

Recently, Kevin, M.D. chronicled: The Google Health Advisory Council: Outrage. While we are on the topic, how strong is this advisory group on the subject of paediatric healthcare and the topic of vaccination?

Would it be both herding cats and inappropriate to engage in any action that might alter these rankings? A recent enquirer asked questions at Autism Diva.
Asking these questions does not mean that I am claiming that MMR causes autism or that I am supporting Wakefield. Especially after I specifically acknowledged that MMR apparently does not. Not all people with questions are antagonists, but when treated as such, find it difficult not to be antagonistic in kind.
It can be difficult to distinguish between faux-naif commenters and those who are sincere enquirers and have some real concerns based on what they have heard from other sources. Would presenting a fuller picture of the non-anti-vax stance on immunisation on Google be of any help to this sort of enquirer?

Image information: 1. Mass Vaccination Ouch!, 2. Double ouch, double vaccination, 3. Polio outbreak campaign, 4. 065 Norwich Historic Plaque (Green)

Created with fd's Flickr Toys Mosaic.

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