Health care for children and youth
- A parent’s guide to the participation of children and teens in medical education
- Health research in children: What parents need to know
- International adoption: Health issues for families
- Making treatment decisions for babies, children and teens
- Paediatricians in Canada: Frequently asked questions
- Planning care for children and youth with serious medical conditions
- You and your child's doctor
Health information on the web
- Dieting: Information for parents, teachers and coaches
- Dieting: Information for teens
- Feeding your baby in the first year
- Food allergy vs. food intolerance: What is the difference and can I prevent them?
- Food safety at home
- Healthy eating for children
- Healthy snacks for children
- Iron needs of babies and children
- Nutrition for your young athlete
- Vegetarian diets for children and teens
- Vitamin D
- When your child is a picky eater
- Avoiding infection: What to do at the doctor’s office
- Growing up: Information for boys about puberty
- Growing up: Information for girls about puberty
- Handwashing for parents and children
- Healthy bowel habits for children
- Healthy sleep for your baby and child
- Healthy teeth for children
- Physical activity for children and youth
- Physical activity for children and youth with a chronic illness
- Skin care for your baby
- Teens and sleep: Why you need it and how to get enough
- When is my child ready for sports?
- 5-in-1 vaccine
- Chickenpox vaccine
- Diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis (dTap) vaccine
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B vaccine
- HPV vaccine for girls
- HPV vaccine: What teens need to know
- Influenza vaccine
- MMR (Measles Mumps Rubella) vaccine
- MMR vaccine: Myths and facts
- Pneumococcal vaccine
- Reduce the pain of vaccination in babies: A guide for parents
- Reduce the pain of vaccination in children and teens: A guide for parents
- Rotavirus vaccine
- Vaccination and your child
A parent’s guide to immunization information on the Internet
The Internet has a lot of information about vaccines and vaccine-preventable diseases—but there is also misinformation, and some of it can be harmful if used to make health decisions.
Evaluating immunization information on the Internet: What can I believe?
Asking a few key questions can help you decide if you can trust the information you find online. These questions can also help you evaluate other sources of vaccine information such as newspapers, magazines, radio, pamphlets or books.
1. Does the website say who is responsible for the information and how to contact them?
The website should:
- Clearly identify the person or organization that produced it and how to contact them. Look for an “About us” or “Contact us” link.
- List any sources of funding or sponsorship.
2. Has the site been developed by a trustworthy source such as a government organization, professional association, or respected non-profit organization? Does it seem likely that the people who wrote the suggestions have medical training?
Some special interest groups publish information that isn’t based on evidence, or that focuses on the organization’s opinion of an issue.
- Experts should be identified, including their credentials (degrees, current positions, etc.).
3. Is there a date showing when the information was posted on online and/or last revised?
- If yes, is it current?
4. Is there scientific evidence to back up the claims?
- If yes, the site should provide sources (e.g., articles from trustworthy medical journals) for the claims (e.g., studies, reports, statistics).
- Remember that not all “studies” or “reports” are necessarily reliable. The CPS has more detailed information on how to judge medical claims on the Internet.
5. Is the site certified by the Health On the Net Foundation or the World Health Organization?
- Health On the Net (HON) Foundation is a Swiss not-for-profit organization that helps Internet users find useful and reliable online medical information. HON has developed guidelines for health sites. Websites that meet the criteria can use the HON seal. The HON site also has a checklist to help users judge if a given site would meet the criteria. Both this site (www.caringforkids.cps.ca) and the Canadian Paediatric Society’s professional site (www.cps.ca) are certified by HON.
- The World Health Organization (WHO) Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety has compiled a listing of websites that provide information on vaccine safety and follow good information practices. This site (www.caringforkids.cps.ca) follows the recommended criteria and is on the list of trustworthy resources.
6. What are some signs that a website might not have a balanced point of view?
A number of studies have reviewed websites with anti-vaccine messages. These sites had many things in common:
- They made claims about vaccines that have not been proven in scientific studies.
- They all had links to other anti-vaccination sites.
- Many promoted alternative therapies—such as homeopathy, naturopathy and chiropractic—as being better than vaccination for preventing infections.
- Many provided stories about children who had reportedly been hurt by vaccines.
- Parents—not people with medical training—were the main source for stories about the alleged dangers of vaccines.
It’s a good idea to talk about the information you read on the Internet with your child’s doctor before making any health decisions.
Source: Your Child’s Best Shot: A Parent’s Guide to Vaccination, 3rd edition (2006), Canadian Paediatric Society
Reviewed by the following CPS committees:
Infectious Diseases and Immunization Committee
Public Education Advisory Committee
Last Updated: February 2013