OBJECTIVE:

To identify and describe vaccine safety in US newspaper articles.

METHODS:

Articles (1147) from 44 states and Washington, DC, between January 1, 1995, and July 15, 2005, were identified by using the search terms “immunize or vaccine” and “adverse events or safety or exemption or danger or risk or damage or injury or side effect” and were coded by using a standardized data-collection instrument.

RESULTS:

The mean number of vaccine-safety articles per state was 26. Six (not mutually exclusive) topics were identified: vaccine-safety concerns (46%); vaccine policy (44%); vaccines are safe (20%); immunizations are required (10%); immunizations are not required (8%); and state/school exemption (8%). Three spikes in the number of newspaper articles about vaccine-safety issues were observed: in 1999 regarding rotavirus vaccine and in 2002 and 2003 regarding smallpox vaccine. Excluding articles that referred to rotavirus and smallpox vaccines, 37% of the articles had a negative take-home message.

CONCLUSION:

Ongoing monitoring of news on vaccine safety may help the content and framing of vaccine-safety messages.

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