Media Handling Of The J&J Vaccine Pause ‘Bungled’ — Led To Even More Vaccine ‘Hesitancy’

April 14, 2021

Finally off the shit list — today Merced County where I live skipped up a notch from the worse in California.
From the Merced Sun-Star this morning:

Merced County officials say they received good news from the state on Wednesday, as they were given permission to move into the red tier for reopening the economy.

The county was the last in the state to move from the purple tier to red, which much of the central San Joaquin Valley is already in. Purple tier is the most restrictive COVID tier under the state rules.

The state gave the county permission on Wednesday after health officials last week asked for a second look at the COVID-19 infections being tallied, according to county Supervisor Daron McDaniel and Merced County spokesman Mike North.
A backlog on tests from two weeks ago caused an inaccurate swelling of the numbers in Merced County, according to Rebecca Nanyonjo-Kemp, director of public health.

Accounting error, huh? Good so long as good remains safe.

The pause in administering the Johnson & Johnson (Janssen ) vaccine has created some problems — my daughter’s Significant Other/boyfriend was set to be shot on Friday, and after a short worry he’s now scheduled for a jab of the Pfizer-BioNTech tomorrow. My daughter and I have had both shots of the Pfizer vaccine and in a couple of weeks we’ll all be fully vaccinated. Hooray!

However, the J&J pause has further inflamed vaccine ‘hesitancy’ — per NBC News yesterday afternoon:

“As it plays out, this is the sort of thing that increases the possibility of vaccine hesitancy across the board,” said Dr. Steve Schrantz, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago, who specializes in infectious diseases.
“It’s a very hard thing to message, and it can put further doubt in people’s minds.”

Just adds to the ignorance level (h/r tweet BJ):

This event is another in an overlapping problem of knowledge and the above-noted ignorance. Eric Boehlert’s PressRun this morning looked into how the media handled the J&J ‘pause’ and discovered another fuck-up:

Unfortunately for Tuesday’s J&J breaking news, crucial context was missing from most of the headlines. Instead of stressing that less than one in a million J&J shots had produced the troubling blood clot reaction, the press focused on “concerns” surrounding the “halt,” and how the move “threatens to slow U.S. pandemic progress.”

It would have been such a simple fix to include “six cases” in each of those headlines, or “extremely rare” in order to give the story crucial, factual context. It’s especially important to provide that full meaning during a public health crisis. Reading those headlines, people likely assumed there were hundreds if not thousands of cases that prompted the vaccine “pause.”

The key omission played into the hands of conservatives who work hard to raise doubts about the virus shots.

It’s true that news consumers who dug into the reports discovered how rare the vaccine-related blood clots were. But those consumers were likely in the minority. According to a 2016 study by computer scientists at Columbia University and the French National Institute, nearly 60-percent of links shared on social media have never actually been clicked. “People form an opinion based on a summary, or a summary of summaries, without making the effort to go deeper,” the chief researcher announced.

The J&J news also attracted lots of media attention speculating whether the halt would cause more people to not want to get vaccinated.

It was a bit ironic Tuesday to watch reporters repeatedly press White House officials at the daily media briefing about whether the J&J pause will increase vaccine hesitancy, while never addressing the role the press might play in that phenomenon.
By repeatedly failing to put the J&J pause in proper context, specifically with headlines, news outlets bear some of the responsibility this week in pushing alarmist narratives that don’t match the facts.

Nationally, a recent Marist poll in partnership with NPR and PBS found 49-percent of Republican men said they would not take the vaccine.
In Texas, 61-percent of white Republicans say they’ll decline. In one county in Alabama, just seven-percent of the eligible population has opted to get vaccinated. (More than 90-percent of county voters backed Trump last year.)
And in North Carolina, a coastal county will stop administering vaccines at the end of the month because so few residents are scheduling appointments for the shot.

On Tuesday, the J&J announcement was treated as the biggest Covid news in weeks.
The halt came at a time when there had been endless encouraging news about the vaccine rollout during Joe Biden’s presidency.

The important J&J pause story was one that cried out for full context in all aspects of the coverage, including the all-important headlines.
Instead, the press bungled the assignment.

And read an Axios update on media’s lack of fact checking.

Especially needed in this age of pure-ass lying by T-Rump and Republicans (h/t again BJ):

Will the influence of the T-Rump ever end?

(Illustration: ‘Pinocchio,’ by Enrico Mazzanti (1852-1910), found here).

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