POLITICAL VACCINES – ARE THE MEDIA TO BLAME?
An examination of the United States news media coverage of the Measles, Mumps and Rubella vaccine and the Human Papilloma virus vaccine
This study examines the news coverage in two different online media outlets, the New York Times and Fox News, in their reporting on two different vaccines, the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR). It uncovers media frames in the respective outlets in order to evaluate if political divides in attitudes
towards the respective vaccines can be attributed to the media portrayals in these outlets. Using framing theory and qualitative content analysis to uncover media frames, it explores the circumstances in which a left-leaning contra a right-leaning audience is invited to understand the issue of HPV- and MMR vaccination. The study exposes the complexity of the vaccine debate in media discourse. Further, it demonstrates that media discourse is generally dependent on political actors instilling an issue with political meaning for it to be framed in terms of conflicting interests. Findings show that the media discourse on HPV vaccine is no longer politically charged or controversially framed. The framing of the MMR vaccine involves some partisan endorsements and it framed as an issue of competing
values and interest. However, the framing is not deemed politically charged beyond the partisan endorsements in the debate on mandatory vaccination.