Media coverage responsible for growth in vaccination rates

A recent study has indicated that mass media coverage of flu-related stories has actually helped to increase vaccination rates.

The study, which was published in the online version of Health Service Research, showed that flu-related news coverage may have increased annual vaccination rates by as many as eight percentage points, according to a report.
Dr. Byung-Kwang Yoo, assistant professor in the University of Rochester Medical Center's Department of Community and Preventive Medicine and lead author of the study, told that the results of the study did not completely surprise him.

“There is a strong correlation between media coverage and the timing and annual receipt of influenza vaccine among the elderly,” Yoo told “We know that mass media can substantially influence health knowledge and the use of health services. In this instance, it is also clear that the media play a significant role in public health.”

The study examined vaccination trends over three flu seasons from 1999 to 2001, a period that included two years with vaccine shortages or delivery delays.

Researchers examined vaccination rates and then compared them with collected news transcripts and Nielsen television viewership ratings. The dates when flu stories appeared in print or were aired on TV were compared to vaccination dates in the study population.

Yoo said researchers observed spikes in vaccination activity following news reports, while models showed news coverage may have been responsible for increasing overall vaccination rates in the study population by up to 7.9 percentage points.

“Our analysis provides a framework with which we can predict the impact of both existing and expanded news coverage,” Yoo said. “This points to a model in which closer collaboration between the news media and the public health community could have an ongoing and significant impact on not only seasonal vaccination rates but also during pandemic outbreaks.”