Course to offer journalists COVID-19 training

A new course - “Covering the COVID-19 Vaccines: What Journalists need to know” - is aimed at informing journalists around the world about reporting on the fast-evolving global pandemic. 

The free course is funded by the European Union and is a joint collaboration between a number of international and journalistic institutions.

It is a collaboration between the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (U.N.E.S.C.O), and the United Nations Development Programme (U.N.D.P). The World Health Organisation (W.H.O), and the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas are also involved.

“Vaccines are yet to arrive in Samoa, therefore, the course is timely," U.N.E.S.C.O.'s representative to Pacific states, Ms. Nisha, said. 

"I would highly encourage media [organisations] to give time to their reporters, editors, and others in the newsroom to cover the four-week period to complete the course to better understand the vaccines, administration of vaccines and issues being raised in public domain."

It will be structured in four weekly modules outlining the difficulties of covering the vaccine rollout such as the science behind newly-released vaccines already released.

The course will also help journalists better their understanding of policies relating to the acquisition and distribution of vaccines, population immunity and emerging variants of the virus.

“Apart from medical personnel and families, they are also witness to individual and collective grief that comes from a pandemic. Science or medical reporters, by virtue of their background may handle it better because of their science-background,” Ms. Nisha said.

“However, most countries and news mediums rely on generalist reporters to inform people even on issues that are scientific.

"Lack of awareness, facts, and understanding may easily lead to misinterpretation of vaccines and its effects. It is, therefore, critical that there is awareness, accurate information, and understanding of facts within newsrooms and among journalists who are covering the pandemic and other traumatic events. 

"The four-week instructor-led course is an attempt to help journalists be prepared to report professionally.”

She said that usually editors are expected to provide guidance to reporters.

“However, on some highly specialised subjects on which medical knowledge is fast evolving, it is not always possible for a media [outlet] to do so,” she said.

Ms. Nisha said U.N.E.S.C.O encouraged all journalists and editors, fact-checkers to undergo the training given their role in public education and public information.  

“This is important for Samoa and also other small island developing states as well as other countries with close-knit communities because people know one another, journalists can feel the sentiments or hear things that may distract them,” she said.

“The course will give them skills to help them respond better to the pressures they face bringing information around equity, vaccine hesitancy, anti-vaccination activism, mis- and dis-information against vaccines, population immunity and emerging variants of the virus.”

The online course is open for registration at

“The new [course] will start from 29 March to 25 April 2021 with the World Press Freedom Day falling in between. The [course] consists of video classes, PowerPoint presentations, readings, quizzes, and discussion forums. We may plan another [course] in the series depending on how the pandemic situation evolves in the future and the role that journalists may be required to play,” she said.

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