Local Media Portrayal of Vaccination

Kelsi Wilkie, Madison Ritterbush, Mariah Koeneke, Mazoun Aloraimi



Our research focused on how the media portrays vaccine rates in the Omaha area. We gathered research and data from local sources, which dated back as far as 2010, and carefully evaluated them to find common themes. What the research revealed was that vaccines are a vital part of the healthcare process, especially in young children. The main vaccines that we focused on were DPT, MMR and varicella. These vaccines in particular are given before the age of 5. We focused on family-based doctors offices in Omaha and the surrounding areas. Our research included secondary data from the different offices we choose and the Douglas County Health Center. Newspaper and magazine articles from the Omaha World Herald  KETV News were also used, as well as information from immunizenebraska.org.

            The common stigma behind vaccines is that they can cause a side effect, autism, when given in children. A popular theme that is now occurring is the belief that if other children are vaccinated, another child does not have to be. This belief though, is proven to be wrong due to a factor called herd immunity. Those that are not vaccinated are not because of an underlying health factor that requires they not be vaccinated because of their current state. Using these two controversial arguments, the study focuses on Omaha and the rates of vaccinations. As stated above, the two sites used for the study were the Omaha World Herald and KETV News. Thirteen articles were gathered from these sites and were all analyzed using three themes–safety, cost, herd immunity. Data from this was what was used to shape and form this paper.


Overall, the data was mostly positive when it came to vaccine rates in children. All of the articles highlighted how important it is to immunize your children, regardless of influence from outside media or third-party sources. The articles we chose lead us to believe that health professionals across the Omaha area are fighting against the “anti-vaccine” movement. The “anti-vaccine” movement is a loose organization that blames vaccinations for children contracting potentially life-threatening diseases and viruses after getting their children vaccinated. Around twenty states even have laws that protect people’s rights to choose if they get vaccinated/get their children vaccinated. Peer-reviewed research shows that such vaccines are safe and effective at preventing kids from getting sick.Science has found no link between vaccines and autism. A British “study” that alleged connections was debunked and later retracted.


One of the first clear themes that we found was safety. Nearly every article had some element of vaccine safety mentioned in it. A journal published by the Omaha World Herald brings up concerns about the safety of vaccines. The main point that the article titled “NOVA Digs into Vaccine Controversy” is that many people take medical advice from the media and famous people that they find influential. This is something people do everyday and it can lead to harmful side effects.  This can be displayed in a quote found in the journal that states “The anti-vaxxers are neglecting to look are real hard core evidence found by scientists and doctors, and are turning to potentially unreliable sources from the web and media”

A second example of this is a  KETV article that covers the theme of safety and is titled “Possible Side effects from Vaccines” This article focuses mainly on the fact that there are no serious side effects form the vaccines themselves. If there are side effects present, they are mild and minor. A quote from the author of the article states “Many people avoid vaccinating their children due harmful side effects that potentially could occur. However, when researchers at Creighton University looked at the vaccines, there was no scientific evidence linking any cases of illness or disability directly to vaccines”.

Cost and Monetary Issues

The next theme that the study concludes is cost and monetary issues related to healthcare, particularly vaccines . Many articles state that parents are not vaccinating their children due to the cost of healthcare and vaccinations. However, further research concludes that insurance companies provide the lowest cost of healthcare for children age 5 and under. Also, Government assistance is readily available for children. The article states that “Preventative medicine for children is less expensive than the cost of treating  serious illness later in life that may occur as a result of under vaccination in early life.” Vaccines prevent extensive medical costs over the long term, Akram said. Healthy kids become productive adults, “And disease anywhere is disease everywhere,” said local RESULTS member Jane Palmer, a retired World-Herald reporter.

A quote stated by another article, “NOVA”, claims that, “vaccines given to infants and young children in the past two decades ‘will prevent 322 million illnesses, 21 million hospitalizations and 732,000 deaths, with savings of upward to $300 billion in direct costs including medical expenses and more than $1.3 trillion in societal costs over that time, as children spared from illness will be able to contribute to society’ the CDC states.” This alone proves that giving your children vaccines will in fact lessen the costs spent than of those who are not vaccinated. These articles lead us to believe that people  do not get vaccinated because of it being too costly, but because of the potentially scary side effects of the vaccinations.

Herd Immunity

The third theme that this study includes is Herd Immunity. An article called, “NOVA Digs into Vaccine Controversy” released from the Omaha World Herald talks about this specifically. It states, “vaccine rates of 95% or higher that are necessary to prevent an isolated infection from becoming an outbreak or epidemic. When immunization rates fall below 90%, such situations as the measles outbreak of 2007 in Brooklyn, New York, can occur, with 15,000 infections and six deaths.” Which since then, there have been a numerous amount of other outbreaks. In another article called, ”Midland Voices: Physicians face a vaccine front line” this is also mentioned. It states, “While some may think the decision to vaccinate a child or not is a matter of personal choice, it has far-reaching implications…the decision to avoid or postpone vaccinations can threaten children who are too young to receive vaccinations or people who may be immunocompromised, including cancer patients of all ages.” Basically, those who don’t immunize their children simply because of personal choice, it is compromising other individuals who are not getting vaccinated by choice but rather because of their circumstances.

Professionals have studied the concept of herd immunity for many years. The term became well known in the late 1990’s. Even the people who push the idea of not vaccinating their children still agree that herd immunity is a real phenomenon and evidence of it can be seen in communities of people with low or no vaccination rate. Doctors from the Omaha Children’s Hospital believe that people who choose to leave their children unvaccinated and unprotected are relying on other parents to immunize their children in order to keep the diseases from spreading.

In conclusion, our research showed us that the main arguments people have against vaccines are the safety, the cost, and the concept of herd immunity. Any research that stated vaccines were unsafe was later revoked by the original researchers and scientists. Also, vaccines for young children and babies are made extremely affordable by insurance companies  Doctors and health professionals in the Omaha area all agree that it is best to immunize children under the age of five to prevent serious illness later in life.



Works Cited

Basu, Rekah. “Opposition to Vaccines”. Omaha.com. Omaha World Herald. 9 Feb. 2015. Web. 1 Mar. 2016

Editorial Board. “Vaccines Vital for Kids.” Omaha.com. Omaha World Herald, 11 Feb. 2015. Web. 29 Feb. 2016.

Glissman, Bob. “It Pays to Be Proactive, Health Expert Says.” Omaha.com. Omaha World Herald, 31 Jan. 2015. Web. 04 Apr. 2016.

Goodrich, Nicole. “High measles vaccination rates out in metro school districts.” KETV. N.p., 5 Feb. 2015. Web. 1 Mar. 2016.

Hansen, Mathew. “Weigh the Cost of Freedom from Mandated Meningitis Vaccine.” Omaha.com. Omaha World Herald, 2 Mar. 2015. Web. 29 Feb. 2016.

“Health Department: Individual Diagnosed with Measles Spent Time in Omaha, Blair.” KETV. KETV, 21 Jan. 2015. Web. 29 Feb. 2016.

“Possible Side Effects from Vaccines.” KETV. N.p., 20 Aug. 2013. Web. 29 Feb. 2016.

“Proposal to require bacterial meningitis vaccine for Nebraska 7th graders get support at legislative hearing.” Omaha.com Omaha World Herald. 21 Jan. 2015. Web. 1 Mar. 2016.

Ruggles, Rick. “Local Docs Have Seen Unusually High Number of Strep Cases This Season.” Live Well Nebraska. World-Herald, 22 Mar. 2016. Web. 28 Mar. 2016.

Ruggles, Rick. “Vaccine Push Has Omahans’ Backing.” Omaha.com. Omaha World Herald, 22 Dec. 2014. Web. 29 Feb. 2016

Tempelton, David. “NOVA Digs into Vaccine Controversy.” Omaha.com. Omaha World Herald, 14 Sept. 2014. Web. 29 Feb. 2016.

Varman, Meera, M.D. ”Midland Voices: Physicians face a vaccine front line.” Omaha.com Omaha World Herald 26 Feb. 2016. Web. 29 Feb. 2016

Zimmerman, Heather. “Are Vaccines Safe?” Omahamagazine.com Omaha Magazine. 28 Feb. 2014. Web. 1 Mar. 2016