Tag: reporters

Five Things to Know About the Reporting on California’s New Vaccine Law

California has a new vaccine law, and based on the media coverage, a lot of folks still don’t understand what it does or how to report about vaccines and the anti-vaccine movement…

“Other opponents say the law tries to solve a problem that doesn’t exist.”

Elizabeth Aguilera on Five Things to Know About California’s New Vaccine Law

As is typically the case, the problem is false balance.

Five Things to Know About the Reporting on California’s New Vaccine Law

Before we talk about what California’s new vaccine law does, let’s remind folks about what it doesn’t do.

What does the new law do?

It doesn’t eliminate all exemptions, stop doctors from writing medical exemptions, require all exemptions to be reviewed, or revoke all medical exemptions.

It simply helps stop providers who are writing inappropriate vaccine exemptions – or at least keep them from writing more than four inappropriate vaccine exemptions.

How did we get here?

It is no surprise how California ended up passing two vaccine laws in four years.

The state has a problem with clusters of unvaccinated kids. Unfortunately, the first vaccine law, SB277, didn’t fix the issue, as some providers found that they could get around it by writing unnecessary medical exemptions.

Some even found that they could make money writing these exemptions!

The vast majority of kids are vaccinated, so what’s the big deal?

While it is great if a state has high immunization rates, that doesn’t mean as much if half the kids in your child’s school are unvaccinated.

This is known as a breakdown of herd immunity.

It puts kids at risk to get a vaccine-preventable disease, especially if they have a true medical exemption.

Are vaccines dangerous, as some critics say?

Vaccines are safe, with few risks.

What is dangerous, are the folks who push misinformation about vaccines that scare parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids. Why don’t we hear more stories about them in the media?

So is this fight over now?

While this should be a time when everyone starts to learn about why vaccines are safe and necessary, unfortunately, some are doubling down and still don’t want to vaccinate and protect their kids.

Did the opposition write this article in the Valley News?
Did “the opposition” write this article in the Valley News?

That might change if instead of simply printing what the opposition says in the spirit of being balanced, the media ever actually fact checks what the opponents to SB 276 and other vaccine laws have been doing and saying…

More On Reporting About Vaccines

Recommendations for Reporting About Vaccines

Historically, the media has played a huge role in pushing vaccine misinformation and scaring parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

“The media created the MMR hoax, and they maintained it diligently for 10 years.”

Dr. Ben Goldacre Bad Science

Even before Andy Wakefield and his MMR hoax, the media helped fuel pertussis outbreaks by pushing the flawed research of John Wilson, which led to lawsuits against DPT vaccines and a big drop in vaccination rates.

None of it was true and the lawsuits failed, but the consequence was still that many unvaccinated kids died.

Bob Sears appeared on Fox & Friends in 2010 for the segment "Vaccines: A Bad Combination?"
Bob Sears appearing on Fox & Friends in 2010 for the segment “Vaccines: A Bad Combination?” is a great example of false balance.

Many others in the media have done a great job in promoting myths and fake controversies about vaccines and have used false balance in their interviews and articles to scare parents.

Fortunately, things have gotten better over the years.

Important Points for Reporting About Vaccines

Still, despite what some folks might think, health journalists aren’t going to get in trouble for reporting about vaccines.

They are going to hear about it if they do a bad job though.

“…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

Remember, the way that health journalists cover vaccines and vaccine-preventable diseases can influence the behavior of people, either helping them understand that vaccines are safe and necessary, putting them on-the-fence about vaccines, or scarring them away from getting vaccinated and protected.

So be careful when reporting about vaccines, as it gives you the opportunity to correct many of myths that scare people, while educating folks about the topic you are covering.

You should also:

Are you ready to cover your next story about vaccines or the next measles outbreak?

What to Know About Reporting on Vaccines

The way that health journalists cover vaccines and vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks can influence the behavior of people, either helping them understand that vaccines are safe and necessary, putting them on-the-fence about vaccines, or scarring them away from getting vaccinated and protected.

More on Reporting about Vaccines