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Anti-vaccinationist/absent correction

Presently a sub page of Anti-vaccinationist

Around 300 websites repeat material published on around 30 websites whose primary orientation appears anti-vaccinationist. (see main page)

The checking of fact, and correction of repeated stories which are withdrawn or modified by the originator - as mistakes for instance - has been criticised in papers in peer-reviewed journals and by many doctors and healthcare organisations as inadequate.



Initial Publication

  In June 2002 a Pakistani periodical with a web presence [1] published a report (-> /2002/06/09/local23.htm now orphaned at [2]) of a Smallpox outbreak at Naro Banda in the Swabi region, along with editorial comment that the Government had failed to react to it. This is in 2006 present in a substantial number of websites, as well as being recoverable from archives such as the Internet Archive.


Dawn itself does not now display the article as part of the day's news, [3] but has archived it [4] under a new name. A letter[5] published a week later is not linked to it, but is discoverable, and points out the inaccuracy. A week after a story turns out to be wholly mistaken an editor may commonly regard it as not news, and having published a contradiction prefer to simply move on. Some papers such as the Guardian, or New York Times would go to greater lengths.

One of the early mentions was a blog, URL, which reported the text of the Dawn article, as passed on by the Australian Vaccination Network, an organisation advising against immunisation and selling a variety of books, homeopathic nostra and other items. However within a couple of days the blog carried an entry noting that this was a false alarm and rumour, and that as usual this was Chickenpox.


The AVN site lacks a search facility (a field which by Jakob Nielsen's published research would be taken by many users to be a search facility is in fact for purchase of goods.) which is unusual and inconvenient for determining if a correction had reached there. The AVN notification with the included (copyright) report from Dawn is still presented on Mr. Scudamore's polemical site with no indication that it has been established as false (mistaken, exaggerated, mis-reported or mistranslated (The Hindi/Urdu term 'cecak' covers smallpox and anything that looks like it (CDC translator))).

The Vaccination News site, which carries advertising and copies of or links to a variety of reports related to immunisation and infectious disease retains the original report Swabi(VN), in the same form as on AVN and a complete copy of the page from Dawn. No comment on copyright is associated with it. It has no annotation to it indicating that this was found false, and no other mention of Swabi or of a smallpox outbreak is findable in the site's search engine.

The Conventional Response

Smallpox having been eliminated in 1979, the first infectious disease to be made extinct in the wild, such reports attract attention from the World Health Organisation and workers attended the scene. Noting that a rumour was being spread an interim posting went to an international disease surveillance mailing list with public Web archive.

Following commentary that the vesicular disease was very unlikely to be Smallpox (case distribution only children, no fatalities, unlikely Smallpox existed) the official confirmation this was Chickenpox was issued on the Promed list on June 13th.

  • Final June 13th
  • interim June 11th

No further primary coverage is visible (Google, in Feb 2006, on the Web, in a brief search).

The Spread daily covered the initial story on the 11th - with quotes from people from the reports above indicating it was unlikely, and the following week published an editorial article, linked back to the original, noting the outcome.

Meanwhile, repetitions occurred through the Web, without checking, and without consulting second sources, or if consulted, without reporting them.

The Present State of the Web

Whale. to simply holds the original article, with no addition to indicate it was not Smallpox, and no further mention discerable by its search facility. A Google search finds about 300 hits on Smallpox + swabi and 50 on an exact phrase picked from the original article. Characterisation of sites as anti-vaccination or not accords well with whether or not they hold a retraction or describe the story as a false rumour. This suggests that the material is duplicated without checking, discrimination, or correction of obvious errors, provided it fits an argument "Smallpox was not abolished by vaccination" and if this is a genuine tendency applied to a significant proportion of the material in the complex of linked sites, indicates that their conclusions and reporting are seriously unreliable.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Anti-vaccinationist/absent_correction". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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