In November, the Sabin Vaccine Institute convened 28 Latin American journalists for a three-day workshop to share the latest information on vaccines, vaccine safety and related global health issues. Journalists play a critical role in communicating the importance of vaccination and dispelling vaccine misinformation in a culturally sensitive manner. In Latin America, journalists are typically responsible for reporting on many topics instead of focusing on just one subject. Immunization experts from around the region gathered at the information session to lead discussions to expand journalists’ understanding of public health concerns as well as basic epidemiology and immunology of vaccines.

Science journalists can help shape demand for public health services, including immunizations, with ongoing, fact-based articles. As a result, it is important to ensure that journalists are informed of public health initiatives in their regions and are able provide accurate information.

“The introduction and widespread use of vaccines in Latin America has changed the face of child health in the region as many of the once-common infectious diseases of childhood have been significantly reduced,” said Dr. Bruce Gellin, president of global immunization at the Sabin Vaccine Institute. “Our challenge now is to be vigilant and ensure that populations continue to be protected from these diseases – we know that when immunity in the community is reduced, these diseases can return as individual cases or as an outbreak. Local media can play an important role in helping people make informed decisions about their health.”

During the three-day information session, hosted by Sabin in partnership with the Universidad I Salud and the Centro de Estudos para la Prevención y el Control de Enfermedades Transmisibles, journalists from 18 countries learned from public health experts about clinical trials, vaccine safety, how to communicate the impact of immunization, and basic epidemiology and immunology of vaccines, among other topics.

“The more detailed information on vaccines increased my awareness to report even more on the topic,” said Mariana Barros, a journalist from Brazil. “The training with health journalists also helped me think about and discuss the responsibility we have when publishing such important news.”

In the weeks since the information session, attendees have published a series of articles in regional news outlets, including La Prensa and ABC Color, that incorporate the information discussed during the three-day training.

This is the fourth vaccine information session for journalists that Sabin has convened in order to enable more effective and accurate media coverage of global health, vaccines and local public health campaigns. Sabin has previously hosted vaccine information sessions in Peru, Brazil and Chile that have helped journalists to drive more effective, accurate media coverage.