In a world where information is so readily available, we often wonder why anti-vaccine misinformation is so prevalent. Much of the reason for this is simply the fact that information is so readily available, even to people who severely misunderstand it. Or in some cases people who will deliberately misrepresent it to their audience.

Another contributing factor is our tendency to take things at face value. If a meme states something as fact and includes a cited source, many people will share that meme without looking any further into the claim.

Here, we’ll examine just one example of why it’s so very important to always go back to the original source and read it carefully.

This meme was found in several anti-vaccine groups. Let’s take a look at the claims it’s making and compare them to the study referenced on the meme.

A study concluded that 79.4% of all children who died from “SIDS” received a vaccine earlier that same day.

There are a few issues with this statement.

The first thing to take note of is that the study looked at deaths reported to VAERS from July 1, 1997 to December 31, 2013. VAERS is simply a reporting system for adverse events that take place after vaccination. The fact that a death was reported to VAERS does not inherently mean that it was caused by vaccines, only that it took place after vaccination.

Additionally, this study looked at all child deaths reported, not only SIDS as the meme suggests. In fact it looked at deaths attributed to SIDS, asphyxia, septicemia and pneumonia. Also worth noting is the fact that the study only looked at deaths reported to VAERS, not all child deaths or even all SIDS cases that occurred during that time period.

To summarize, the 79.4% figure given in the meme in reality is not 79.4% of all SIDS deaths but is 79.4% of all child deaths reported to VAERS.

In regards to the 79.4% figure, the meme indicates that is the percentage of SIDS deaths (incorrect as we’ve already established) where the child was given a vaccine earlier that same day. The meme creator took some liberties with that claim, as you can see that the study made no mention of vaccinations being given “earlier that day.” In fact, what it states is that 79.4% were given more than one vaccine at the same time, which is not at all unusual. It also goes on to explain that “no concerning pattern was noted.” Surely if the claim made by the meme were accurate it would not only be concerning but would almost certainly be noticed by much of the public.

Clearly, the meme misrepresents the study it references. Unfortunately, many people will never look any further into it. Don’t be one of those people, and please share this with anyone you may know who has reservations about vaccines based on anti-vaccine propaganda that feeds on fear.

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