MEDIA RELEASE

COVID-19 Vaccine Media Hub open for service

16 March 2021 - Immediate release

Journalists and fact-checkers have a new weapon in the fight against COVID-19 vaccine misinformation with a dedicated global support service developed by a network of Science Media Centres (SMCs) and public health experts.

The COVID-19 Vaccine Media Hub (covidvaccinehub.org) is coordinated by the Australian Science Media Centre in South Australia in collaboration with global technology not-for-profit Meedan and with financial support from the Google News Initiative. The Hub will provide journalists and fact-checkers with a trusted source of evidence and experts they can turn to, as they report on the fast-evolving news around COVID-19 vaccines.

The Hub brings together information from multiple organisations including Science Media Centres in Australia, Germany, the UK, NZ, Africa and North America, and Meedan with nodes in multiple regions. It is the first time these organisations have been able to work together in a comprehensive way to provide a truly global resource.

“The pandemic is a global problem," said Dr Susannah Eliott, CEO of the Australian Science Media Centre.

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It makes a lot of sense for this international group of organisations to pool their knowledge and expertise to help journalists anywhere in the world."

While much of the science is still developing, the hub will help sort what we know from what we don't and won't shy away from areas where the science is still uncertain. Fiona Fox, Director of the UK Science Media Centre, said there has never been a more important time for the public to have access to measured and accurate evidence about vaccines. 

"Public worries about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines and tough questions about claims being made by vaccine producers are absolutely legitimate at a time when vaccines have been produced at such break-neck speed," she said.

"But millions of lives and our collective ability to return to anything like normal life depend on the quality of answers we can get from science.”

The hub will be continuously updated with expert commentary and explainers reacting to the latest research and developments, much of it translated into multiple languages. A 24-hour service will also soon be available to journalists and fact-checkers to help them with specific questions.

The Hub will be hosted by Meedan's Health Desk which already makes COVID-19 information accessible and deadline-friendly in a variety of languages. Award-winning journalist Megan Marrelli is Health Desk's News Lead:

“As a journalist myself it became clear when the pandemic hit that close collaboration with public health experts would be key to getting facts right in a way that’s both fast and responsible," she said. 

"That collaboration is even more necessary when it comes to vaccines."

Support for the project comes from the Google News Initiative. Alexios Mantzarlis from their News Lab team said the COVID-19 vaccine media hub will be an invaluable tool to help journalists fulfill that crucial bridging role between the scientific community and the broader public.

"In turn, that should help combat misinformation about the immunisation process and promote an evidence-based public discourse globally," he said.


Reaction to the launch from other contributing organisations:

Nat Gyenes, Director, Digital Health Lab, Meedan:

“We’re at a moment in this pandemic where we’re reminded that a vaccine doesn’t save lives if it goes unused. Ensuring that eligible communities receive the vaccine involves addressing a variety of factors, ranging from availability of supplies to accessible, relevant, quality information. Pathways for public health experts and journalists, fact-checkers and community information leaders to collaborate closely, efficiently, and at the speed of newsroom deadlines is essential for addressing the health information inequity challenges that can impede vaccination efforts.” 

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Dacia Herbulock, Director, Science Media Centre of New Zealand:

"As COVID-19 vaccine rollouts ramp up around the world, there is an overwhelming need for accessible, high-quality and up-to-date information based on the latest scientific evidence. In New Zealand, we've seen first-hand how excellent science communication can transform society's response to a crisis. We are thrilled to contribute to this global collaboration that will make these resources available to journalists and fact checkers at the time when they need it most."

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Volker Stollorz, Science Media Center Germany:

"Many countries are waiting for COVID-19 vaccines and the numbers of different vaccines are increasing rapidly, so that even in Europe it remains challenging to find reliable, evidence-based knowledge. The Science Media Center Germany is therefore pleased to participate in an international collaboration to help answer journalists' and fact-checkers' questions from around the globe, when they can be answered with scientific expertise available to us.”

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Rick Weiss, Director, SciLine:

“We at SciLine look forward to leveraging the relationships we’ve developed with hundreds of US scientists working in COVID-19-related disciplines by making resources based on those experts’ knowledge and insights available to the global community of journalists and fact checkers.”

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Jim Handman, Science Media Centre of Canada

"In these times of fake news, misinformation, disinformation and social media rumours, journalists need access to accurate, reliable, evidence-based information relating to COVID-19 vaccines. The Science Media Centre of Canada is pleased to be part of this global effort to address those concerns and provide journalists and fact-checkers with data and materials they can easily access and rely on."

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For more information regarding the Hub and Australia's contribution to it, contact Susannah Eliott