Story ideas for covering COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy

About Bara Vaida

Bara Vaida (@barav) is AHCJ's core topic leader on infectious diseases. An independent journalist, she has written extensively about health policy and infectious diseases. Her work has appeared in the National Journal, Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg News, McClatchy News Service, MSNBC, NPR, Politico, The Washington Post and other outlets.

Video screen capture: National Association of Broadcasters

National Association of Broadcasters

When it comes to COVID-19 vaccines, Americans want to know more about safety and potential side-effects (including any possible long-term impact on fertility), as well as the logistics of getting their shot, according to a recent survey, according to a new survey.

Media research firm SmithGeiger conducted the survey, which was partially funded by the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the Missouri School of Journalism. It was shared first with AHCJ members during a March 17 webcast about potential story ideas for journalists covering the vaccine rollout and efforts by public health leaders to boost confidence in the vaccine’s safety and efficacy.

“There is tremendous opportunity by local media to inform people about the vaccines,” Andrew Finlayson, SmithGeiger’s executive vice president of digital and social media strategies, said during the webcast.

The survey was conducted at the end of February as part of the Vaccine Education Toolkit for journalists. It found that about 68 percent of Americans would definitely, or were likely to, get vaccinated, but about 13 percent were unsure. The remaining roughly 20 percent said they probably or definitely wouldn’t get the vaccine. (Other funders of the toolkit include the National Association of Broadcasters and the National Association of Chain Drug Strores)

“We have a hesitant public in some pockets, and we have a public that is eager” to get the vaccine, Monique Luisi, assistant professor of strategic communication at the Missouri Schools of Journalism, said during the webcast. “There are reasons people are hesitant, and more work can be done to figure that out.”

Luisi added that local news outlets are more trusted for vaccine information than national news outlets, suggesting that local newspapers, radio stations and broadcasters can play a “super, super important” role in helping those hesitant about the vaccines to make an informed decision, according to the survey.

Those who remain hesitant had a myriad of reasons for staying on the fence, including concerns about side-effects, worry about their long-term fertility and whether the federal government rushed the regulatory safety process for approving the vaccines. According to the survey results, these are the kinds of stories that this group wants to read more about.

“People have lots of questions … and want stories… about the practical,” Finlayson said. “They want to know when and where to get the vaccine, where to park, how to get into the building,” as well what insurance they might need, what identification they need to bring, and ways to get to the vaccine if they don’t have cars.”

Further, communities of color especially want more information about logistics of how to register for a vaccine, where to go, how to get there, how much it will cost, and assurances from doctors, nurses, and pharmacists from their own communities that the vaccine is safe.

Communities of color want “to see stories about people … that look like (them) and have the same concerns as (them) … and (how they) got access to the vaccine and that it was safe and effective” in preventing COVID-19,” Luisi said.

For more about the survey and story ideas presented in the webcast and resources, click here.

1 thought on “Story ideas for covering COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy

Leave a Reply