Principles and guidelines for reporting on Covid-19 vaccines

Here are ten useful principles for anyone reporting on Covid-19 vaccines, from communications experts new to this topic to experienced journalists.

A graphic illustration of the 10 principles as described in the article text.


Licence: Attribution CC BY
Listen to this article
Principles and guidelines for reporting on Covid-19 vaccines
Elapsed time:00:00Total time:00:00

The following ten principles have been gathered from respected media organisations around the world and Wellcome’s own experience in vaccines. They are designed to support anyone new to this topic, but can also act as a timely reminder to those closer to it and can sit safely alongside existing industry codes of practice and policies.

Vaccines are still huge news and the agenda and conversation will continue to evolve, from a focus on vaccine development, to the global vaccination rollout. Each new development and stage of this journey brings new challenges and prompt new questions, and the role of communicators and writers in helping the public understand and navigate this highly complex subject will continue to be critical if we are to successfully vaccinate the world's population.

1. Manage expectations 

2. Remember vaccination is a social norm 

3. Understand genuine concerns 

4. Beware the implications of 'false balance' 

5. Avoid triggering fear or shame 

6. Make the science accessible and relatable 

7. Be sensitive to vested interests 

8. Verify with experts when reporting data 

9. Be clear about what is not known 

10. Consider imagery 

More resources 

Tips for professional reporting on COVID-19 vaccines, World Health Organization

COVID-19 Safety Advisory for Media Professionals, The International Federation of Journalists

Advice for journalists covering Covid-19: Welsh NHS Confederation, University of Cardiff

Tips for Journalists Covering COVID-19, Global Investigative Journalism Network

A practitioner's guide to the principles of COVID-19 vaccine communications, Center for Public Interest Communications at the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications, in partnership with Purpose and the United Nations Verified initiative

COVID-19 Journalist Guidance: How to Report Accurately on COVID-19 Vaccines, Internews

Reporting on coronavirus vaccines: 5 tips to help journalists inject audiences with the facts, Journalist’s Resource

Covid-19 Reporting Guidelines, International Media Support

Covering COVID-19: reports, resources, and tools, The Global Forum for Media Development.