Canadian newspaper coverage of the A/H1N1 vaccine program

Canadian Public Health Association
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Canadian Journal of Public Health, 2011, 102, (3), pp. 200-204
Issue Date:
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OBJECTIVES:The A/H1N1 mass vaccination program in Canada garnered considerable attention from the media, including extensive newspaper coverage. Media reports have been shown to influence the public's health care decisions, including vaccination choices. We analyzed Canadian newspapers' portrayal of the A/H1N1 vaccine including mention of risks and benefits of the vaccine and whether the article supported, questioned or was neutral about the vaccine. METHODS:We compiled a data set of Canadian newspaper articles (N = 234) and conducted a frequency content analysis to examine discussion and/or mention of evidence concerning vaccination, risks of the A/H1N1 virus and the vaccine, and tone of article in regards to the vaccination program in Canada. RESULTS:Reasons for getting vaccinated appeared in 71.8% of the articles, whereas only 18.4% provided reasons against getting vaccinated. Discussion of evidence to support claims for or against getting vaccinated appeared in only 27.8% and 6.8% of the articles, respectively. Risks associated with contracting the A/H1N1 virus were discussed in 49.6% of the articles and risks of the A/H1N1 vaccine were discussed in 12.4% of the articles. CONCLUSION:Newspaper coverage in Canada was largely supportive of the A/H1N1 mass vaccination program. However, serious risks associated with contracting the A/H1N1 virus were also frequently discussed in the print media. The news articles rarely presented direct evidence to support statements that the vaccine was safe, effective and properly tested. Known risks (such as potential allergic reactions and flu-like side effects) of the vaccine were rarely reported. The relationship between media portrayals and vaccine uptake warrants further research.
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