Global partnership offers course on journalistic coverage of COVID-19 vaccine


Journalists, communicators and fact-checkers from around the world will be able to take a specialized Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) entitled “Covering the COVID-19 Vaccine: what journalists need to know” from 29 March to 25 April.

The interactive course which initially will be offered free of charge in English, French, Portuguese and Spanish is a joint collaboration between the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas at Austin, co-funded by the European Union. Upon completion, the course will also be made available in a self-directed format in additional languages.

Scientific international cooperation and vaccines have created hope that a brighter future is within reach. Yet, the success of the global vaccination campaigns depends on building trust amongst the public and ensuring that they have access to the information they need. Independent and professional media play a key role in this process. However, to deal with such complex issues, journalists and media workers in general need knowledge and expertise. That is why, working with our partners and with the support of the European Union, UNESCO is proud to be co-organizing this course to ensure professional coverage of COVID-19 vaccines.

Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO

The work of journalists has never been more important. We depend on the press to fight misinformation, explain the science, and foster honest inquiry and debate. Your journalism matters. The hard work you do every day to dig deep and get it right matters. A tough and fair press can be a powerful force for a healthier, safer, fairer world.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General at the World Health Organization

For the first time in 30 years, global human development is going backwards due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the poorest and most vulnerable being hit the hardest. With the roll-out of the vaccines, we have an opportunity to push the “re-set” button towards a greener, more inclusive and more sustainable future. Accurate and evidence-based media coverage matters. Whether it’s advocating for equitable access to vaccines or fighting misinformation, journalists are shaping the world of tomorrow.

Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator

Four weekly modules of the course will examine many of the challenging and evolving aspects of the vaccine rollout such as the science of the development of the vaccines already released as well as of those being created, the policies of acquisition and distribution of vaccines globally and questions of equity, vaccine hesitancy, anti-vaccination activism, mis- and disinformation against vaccines, population immunity and emerging variants of the virus.

Registration for this online course is open and participants can chose from the four languages: English, French, Portuguese and Spanish.

“When the pandemic started last year, we noticed that journalists were struggling to cover it because of their lack of specialization in matters of science and health. So, with help from UNESCO, WHO and UNDP we quickly put together a free online course that benefited thousands of journalists from all over the world,” said professor Rosental Alves, UNESCO Chair in Communication at the University of Texas at Austin and founder and director of the Knight Center. “Now that journalists are facing new challenges of the coverage of the global vaccination campaign amidst serious problems of mis/disinformation, “we are stepping up to help them again with this massive course, in partnership with the same three U.N. agencies, and support from the European Union.”

Prof. Rosental Alves, UNESCO Chair in Communication at the University of Texas at Austin

Nearly 9000 journalists from 162 countries took a previous MOOC entitled “Journalism in a pandemic: Covering COVID-19 now and in the future,” offered through a collaboration between the same partners and with support from the Knight Foundation in May 2020. The self-directed versions of this course are available in Arabic, English, French, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

Additionally, a 3-hour webinar on “Covering the COVID-19 vaccine: What journalists need to know,” was organised by the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas in collaboration with UNESCO, WHO and with funding from the European Union on 29 January 2021 and remains available to watch in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Hindi, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.

To register for the new MOOC or learn more about available courses and resources for covering the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccine roll-out and countering disinformation, please find the following links: