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People Want “Just the Facts” in Vaccine Coverage

NAB, RJI study provides insight for media for use in covering vaccinations

The National Association of Broadcasters is highlighting a new study about the challenges and opportunities for media as they cover the story of vaccines being deployed to fight COVID-19.

NAB and the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute commissioned the survey, which was conducted by SmithGeiger.

They found that “a strong majority of Americans are eager for a COVID-19 vaccine and interested in news coverage that provides expert testimony on the safety and efficacy of vaccination.”

They said a desire to get back to normal is the biggest motivator for getting vaccinated and that “media organizations could encourage vaccinations by focusing on messages regarding reducing loss of life and helping others.”

NAB RJI coronavirus chart opinions

Respondents said local news, via TV, radio and print, are their most reliable source of information.

“The information respondents want most centers on the safety and efficacy of the vaccine. The most important voices to these respondents are those of their own doctors and nurses (88%) followed by experts at federal, state and local health agencies (87%), their own pharmacist (82%) and friends and family (78%),” the NAB and RJI said in a summary of the research.

“The survey finds the most impactful local news reporting would be an investigation into the safety/effectiveness of a vaccine or recommendations focused on wearing masks, with 58% of respondents saying this type of coverage would lead them to trust that news organization more.”

They said respondents want stories that “make recommendations based on detailed reporting,” to facilitate personal health decisions, rather than stories that offer information without recommendations or personal stories from journalists about the pandemic.

“They express a preference for coverage that focuses on ‘just the facts,’” according to the press release.

“Respondents prefer messaging that highlights concern for others, such as, ‘Don’t put your family through the pain of losing you…’ and, ‘Protect yourself, protect your neighbors’. In both cases, roughly half of all respondents say they are more likely to get vaccinated as a result of seeing that message, versus just 16% who are less likely.”

Six out of 10 respondents intend to get a vaccine once it is available to them, with 13% of respondents saying they “definitely will not” get vaccinated.

Among other findings, African Americans are “significantly more worried” than the broader public about the vaccine making people sick, and “significantly less confident” that it has been adequately tested. (Read the full press release including other findings.)

NAB and RJI will put together a “messaging toolkit” to be available early next year to help with local and regional vaccine education communications. It will be in English and Spanish and shared with local radio and television stations, journalists and partner groups.