The Johnson & Johnson vaccine announcement and the limits of journalism

The suspension of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine over concerns about a vanishingly small number of blood-clotting issues is a perfect illustration of the limits of journalism.

My Twitter feed is filled with admonitions to the media saying that we should remind our audience of how rare this side effect has been — six total cases out of nearly 7 million vaccines. That’s much lower than the risk women face using birth control pills or, for that matter, much rarer than the risk of dying or becoming seriously ill from COVID. Just one example:

Fair enough. We should always strive to be responsible. But it was the government, not the media, that made this announcement. And if people become unnecessarily frightened into rejecting the J&J vaccine, or any vaccine, that’s on the government, not the media.

We get many things wrong. But we’re actually pretty good at passing along frightening announcements from official sources.

2 thoughts on “The Johnson & Johnson vaccine announcement and the limits of journalism

  1. Pingback: The Johnson & Johnson vaccine pause and the media’s role in communicating risk – Politixia

  2. mike Buetow

    I don’t think you mean to, but your statement (“But it was the government, not the media, that made this announcement. And if people become unnecessarily frightened into rejecting the J&J vaccine, or any vaccine, that’s on the government, not the media.”) seems to absolve journalists of any responsibility for providing context.

    And if it is not the journalist’s role to provide context, then there’s a limited need for journalists.

Comments are closed.