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Heliyon. 2018 Nov 27;4(11):e00970. doi: 10.1016/j.heliyon.2018.e00970. eCollection 2018 Nov.

Influenza vaccination discourse in major Canadian news media, 2017-2018.

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Health Law Institute, University of Alberta Faculty of Law, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.


Influenza vaccine uptake is less-than-ideal in many jurisdictions, including Canada. In this study we sought to assess news articles relating to influenza vaccination by major Canadian newspapers during a six-month period relatively congruent to the seasonal influenza outbreak for 2017-2018. We identified 116 unique articles published between August 16, 2017 and February 15, 2018, then developed and applied a coding frame to them. Influenza vaccination was portrayed primarily positively (74.14%), sometimes negatively (14.66%), and occasionally neutrally (11.21%). Articles were most commonly focused on news about the prevalence, or amount of harm/death caused by, the influenza virus (31.03%), or on public announcements primarily concerning influenza vaccination (17.24%). Benefits of influenza vaccination were often stated (59.48%), most commonly including reduction in disease (47.41%) and protection of vulnerable individuals (26.72%). Issues or problems with influenza vaccination were also often stated (55.17%), most commonly relating to low or non-effectiveness of the vaccine (43.10%). Most articles stated that people should get vaccinated (65.52%). Canadian newspaper articles generally support the scientific consensus that influenza vaccination is a highly positive intervention. Nonetheless, a clear picture of the true value of influenza vaccination may sometimes be missing in articles focusing on low effectiveness and lacking any mention of vaccination's positive value. Overall, we can reasonably conclude that, in Canada, misinformation and antivaccination rhetoric are coming primarily from sources other than newspapers.


Public health; Vaccines

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