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Covering the COVID-19 vaccine: What journalists need to know

Instructores:   Maryn McKenna (SP)
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This self-directed course features course content from the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas' massive open online course (MOOC) titled “Covering the COVID-19 vaccine: What journalists need to know.” The four-week course took place from March 29 to April 25, 2021. We are now making the content free and available to students who took the course and anyone else who’s interested in learning how to improve their coverage of COVID-19 and the vaccines.

This is a Knight Center course held in partnership with UNESCO, UNDP, and WHO, and co-funded by the European Union.

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The course was taught by Maryn McKenna. She created and curated the content for the course, which includes video classes, readings, exercises, and more.

 The course materials are broken into four modules, along with an introductory module:

We encourage you to watch the videos, review the readings, and complete the exercises as time allows. The course materials build off each other, but the videos and readings also act as standalone resources that you can return to over time.

We hope you enjoy the materials. If you have any questions, please contact us at journalismcourses@austin.utexas.edu.

Meet the Instructor

marynMaryn McKenna is an independent journalist who specializes in public health, global health and food policy, and a Senior Fellow at the Center for the Study of Human Health at Emory University, where she teaches health and science writing and narrative. She is the author of the 2017 bestseller BIG CHICKEN: The Incredible Story of How Antibiotics Created Modern Agriculture and Changed the Way the World Eats, which received the 2018 Science in Society Award and was named a best book of 2017 by Amazon, Smithsonian, Science News, Wired, Civil Eats, and other publications (and is published outside North America under the title Plucked) and the award-winning books Superbug and Beating Back the Devil. She appears in the 2019 documentary Resistance Fighters, which won top prizes at the Vancouver and Paris film festivals, and the 2014 U.S. documentary Resistance, and her 2015 TED Talk, "What do we do when antibiotics don't work any more?" has been viewed 1.8 million times and translated into 34 languages. She is a contributor for WIRED and writes for The New York Times Magazine, The New Republic, National Geographic, Mother Jones, Newsweek, NPR, Smithsonian, Scientific American, Slate, The Atlantic, Nature, and The Guardian, among other publications. She has received the 2019 AAAS-Kavli Gold Award for magazine writing, the 2019 John P. McGovern Award for Excellence in Biomedical Communication, the 2014 Leadership Award from the Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics, and the 2013 Byron H. Waksman Award for Excellence in the Public Communication of Life Sciences. She was a Poynter Fellow in Journalism at Yale in 2018 and a Knight Science Journalism Fellow at MIT in 2013-14. She lives in Atlanta.

Course description

 Introduction

1. Welcome video

Watch Video   

2. Message from the Director-General of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesu

Watch Video   

3. Message from the Director-General of UNESCO, Audrey Azoulay

Watch Video   

4. Message from the Administrator of UNPD, Achim Steiner

Watch Video   

5. Course syllabus

Syllabus 

  Materials

1. How COVID vaccines are being divvied up around the world [Nature]

2. Vaccines have given us hope, but they won't end the global battle against Covid [The Guradian].

3. Coronavirus (Covid-19) Vaccinations [Our World in Data]

4. (Optional) Journalism in a pandemic: Covering COVID-19 now and in the future [Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas]

Vaccines are here: Now what?

This module will cover the different vaccines that have been licensed to date around the world, and the many candidate vaccines still in the pipeline, explaining how their underlying technologies differ. We will review clinical trial data and identify sources of information regarding the vaccines, and explain the different logistical challenges of delivering them.

 Video Classes

1. Vaccines are here: Now what?

Watch Video  Transcript  Presentation 

2. Interview with Dr. Katherine O'Brien (WHO) 

Watch Video  Transcript 

3. Interview with Dr. Angela Rasmussen (Coronavirologist)

Watch Video  Transcript

 Readings

1. “Challenges in ensuring global access to COVID-19 vaccines: production, affordability, allocation, and deployment" by Olivier J. Wouters et al. [The Lancet]

2. “Why Does the Pandemic Seem to Be Hitting Some Countries Harder Than Others?” by Siddhartha Mukherjee [The New Yorker]

(NB: The New Yorker has a metered paywall, just a few free visits every month — so don’t access this until you are ready to read it!)

3. “Luck, foresight and science: How an unheralded team developed a COVID-19 vaccine in record time” by David Heath and Gus Garcia-Roberts [USA Today]

4. New York Times Vaccine Tracker [The New York Times]

When will vaccines arrive?

This module will examine how vaccine delivery has unfolded in the countries that have already begun vaccination, and will explore predictions for when other countries will receive their own vaccines. It will scrutinize the risk of “vaccine nationalism” and hoarding as well as explain international plans to ensure that developing-economy countries receive their fair share.

 Video Classes

1. When will vaccines arrive?

Watch Video  Transcript

2. Interview with Susan Brown (Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance)
Watch Video  Transcript

3. Interview with Deepak Kapur (National PolioPlus Chair for India)

Watch Video  Transcript

 Readings

Logistics:

 Optional Resources

1. Additional readings 

How can we trust the vaccines?

This module will distinguish between vaccine hesitancy and anti-vaccination activism and discuss the reasonable concerns of minority groups and nations who in the past have been victimized by unethical research practices. It will examine the rise of misinformation and weaponized disinformation against the vaccines and explore resources for debunking false claims and encouraging trust.

 Video Classes

1. How can we trust the vaccines?

Watch Video  Transcript 

2. Interview with Ludo Bok (UNDP)

Watch Video  Transcript

3. Interview with Davey Alba (New York Times Reporter)

Watch Video  Transcript 

4. Interview with Jessica Malaty Rivera (Infectious disease epidemiologist and science communicator)

Watch Video  Transcript 

 Readings

1. “How to Debunk Misinformation about COVID, Vaccines and Masks” by Kathleen Hall Jamieson [Scientific American]

2. “Measuring the impact of COVID-19 vaccine misinformation on vaccination intent in the UK and USA” by Sahil Loomba et al. [Nature Human Behavior]

3. “How to cover vaccine hesitancy” by Vivian Schiller [Columbia Journalism Review]

4. The Coronavirus Facts Alliance [Poynter]

 Optional Resources

1. Additional resources

2. Additional resources [UNESCO]

 

After vaccination, what is the future? 

This module will examine predictions for how long it will take to achieve population immunity and to what degree societies will need to persist with masks and social distancing. It will examine the risks of emerging viral variants and explore what ongoing response will be needed if SARS CoV-2 becomes an endemic infection.

 Video Classes

1. After vaccination, what is the future?

Watch Video  Transcript 

2. Interview with Dame Sally Davies (UK Special Envoy on Antimicrobial Resistance)

Watch Video  Transcript 

3. A group conversation with MOOC instructors Maryn McKenna, Federico Kukso (Science journalist and author), André Biernath (Science journalist for BBC Brazil) and Yves Sciama (Science journalist and vice president of the French Association of Science Journalists)

Watch Video  Transcript 

 Readings

1. “The vaccine race against the coronavirus variants, explained” by Umair Irfan and Julia Belluz [Vox]

2. “Covid Spilled From Animals to Humans. Now It’s Spilling Back” by Maryn McKenna [WIRED]

3. “We Can’t End the Pandemic Without Vaccinating Kids” by Jeremy Samuel Faust and Angela Rasmussen [The New York Times]

4. “Vaccine Passports, Covid’s Next Political Flash Point” by Max Fisher  [The New York Times]

5. "COVID-19 shows why united action is needed for more robust international health architecture" [European Council proposal for pandemic treaty]

 Optional Resources

1. Additional resources

2. Additional resources from WHO

The World Health Organization, one of our course sponsors, is creating simple explainers, digital graphics, and photo stories that you can use for your vaccination coverage.