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Catalysing Media Discourse on Routine Immunization

Immunization is a highly cost effective way of preventing the diseases that kill the poorest children. The Government of India has declared 2012 as the Year of Intensification of RI.

Media is a crucial ally in any public health initiative. To expand awareness and trust on RI, there is a need to find innovative and rapid ways of engaging with media especially at the district and state levels in order to catalyse informed discourse on Routine Immunization and limit negative media in case of Adverse Effects Following Immunization.

A partnership was thus forged with IGNOU, the country’s largest distance education University which has presence in the remotest corners of the country.

This partnership was established keeping in mind the need to build capacities of media from difficult-to-access regions of the country.

The state of Madhya Pradesh with 42% immunization rate (against the national average of 60%) was chosen as a pilot state. IGNOU’s regional centres in Jabalpur and Bhopal were utilized to link up with the national media in Delhi.

A pre-intervention media analysis was conducted to understand the tone and content of media reportage on RI. Results showed that two-third of the coverage was event based, 61% of the stories were negative with tendency to sensationalize news reports esp. those filed at district level, attributing AEFI deaths to the vaccine

The engagement strategy was in three phases. The first phase connected over 40 district media from Jabalpur with 30 state media from Bhopal and ten national media from Delhi, simultaneously through videoconference of IGNOU. This enabled highlighting the urgency of the issue among a large cross-section of media.

In the second phase, the same group of 80 journalists were taken to field visits. Journalists were exposed to hospitals and Anganwadi immunization sessions, walk-in freezers for demonstrating cold-chain vaccine storage.

In the third phase, over 20 top-level editors from MP and Delhi were engaged with face-to-face, to create commitment and space for RI at the highest levels. Journalist icons, Mr Vinod Mehta and Sir Mark Tully publicly recognized efforts of some best journalists for their articles on RI engaged in May 2011.

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