NBC News, NY Times, Washington Post Roundly Called Out for Horribly Irresponsible Framing of Covid Cases in Fully Vaccinated People
“Breakthrough Covid cases are on the rise among the vaccinated,” blares a headline on an NBC News article published Friday.
However, as the sub-headline points out, “The 125,682 ‘breakthrough’ cases in 38 states represent less than .08 percent of the 164.2 million-plus people fully vaccinated since January.”
Only about half of Americans are vaccinated against Covid-19, as federal, state, and local governments have struggled to convince large swaths of the public to get the shot. Yet, that is the headline NBC News chose.
Exclusive: At least 125,000 fully vaccinated Americans tested positive for Covid https://t.co/8MCPVw5orl via @strickdc
— Ken Dilanian (@KenDilanianNBC) July 30, 2021
Additionally on Friday, The Washington Post had a similar, though less egregious, framing for one of its stories:
“CDC study shows three-fourths of people infected in Massachusetts covid-19 outbreak were vaccinated.” (The headline was later updated.)
Please don’t do this.
Provincetown has one of the highest vaccination rates in the country.
As vaccination rates increase the percentage of cases that are in vaccinated people NECESSARILY increases. pic.twitter.com/23DurW6xfa
— Matthew Gertz (@MattGertz) July 30, 2021
Cc: @MattGertz progress!! pic.twitter.com/FH5l0bU7CE
— Charles #GetVaxxed! ? (@charles_gaba) July 30, 2021
Public health officials have been telling us since the beginning the vaccines aren’t perfect and that there will be breakthrough cases. We were told the Pfizer vaccine is about 94% effective, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is about 66% effective, etc. The breakthrough cases NBC and the Post are reporting were entirely expected.
Also on Friday, The New York Times tweeted that the Delta variant may be spread by vaccinated people just as easily as unvaccinated people, per the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
Breaking News: The Delta variant is as contagious as chickenpox and may be spread by vaccinated people as easily as the unvaccinated, an internal C.D.C. report said.https://t.co/hDs1FOIPMt
— The New York Times (@nytimes) July 30, 2021
Inevitably, users on Twitter let the outlets have it:
A responsible headline would read: 99.93% of fully vaccinated Americans have not tested positive. The COVID vaccine works. https://t.co/BkZpP2q7rd
— Rep. Peter Meijer (@RepMeijer) July 30, 2021
These headlines are so goddamn irresponsible in an incredibly dangerous, cynical way. Yes, the subheadline goes on to note this “represents less than .08 percent of the 164.2 million-plus people fully vaccinated since January” but they know what they are doing and it’s awful. https://t.co/mfoTqNVndL
— Eric Goldman (@TheEricGoldman) July 30, 2021
This tweet is incredibly irresponsible. It makes it sound like vaccinated ppl are as likely to get and spread Covid as unvaccinated people are, which the CDC document absolutely does not say. https://t.co/XuV6Nvticc
— James Surowiecki (@JamesSurowiecki) July 30, 2021
VACCINATED PEOPLE DO NOT TRANSMIT THE VIRUS AT THE SAME RATE AS UNVACCINATED PEOPLE AND IF YOU FAIL TO INCLUDE THAT CONTEXT YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG. https://t.co/gBkDbJ21xX
— Ben Wakana (@benwakana46) July 30, 2021
Very few of them were hospitalized https://t.co/7GaCXZzjAF
— David Begnaud (@DavidBegnaud) July 30, 2021
Alternate Headline: Just 0.076% of vaccinated Americans have tested positive for COVID https://t.co/Oj4Aebk6DN
— Josh Jordan (@NumbersMuncher) July 30, 2021
This is some godawful irresponsible trash by the Washington Post. Does no one at the paper understand how the Internet works with headlines? https://t.co/OxOakwHIJZ
— Danny Gold (@DGisSERIOUS) July 30, 2021
That’s 125,000 breakthrough cases out of 164,200,000+ fully vaccinated Americans.
This type of contextless fear mongering is detrimental to public health. https://t.co/e9XwENj21v
— Zach Bloxham (@zblox) July 30, 2021
I am BEGGING news editors to put the goddamn context in the headline. Not your dek, not your lede, the headline. pic.twitter.com/Aa8uioq5yP
— Brandon Wall (@Walldo) July 30, 2021
On one hand, this is clearly a misleading, hysterical headline. 125,000 vaccinated people may have tested positive, but that’s out of more than 150 million who didn’t. On the other, the media probably could’ve benefited from being more hysterical about COVID in Jan./Feb. 2020. https://t.co/dsAbCLZhve
— Ej Dickson (@ejdickson) July 30, 2021
Pick your headline, because both are true:
“125,000 fully vaccinated Americans have tested positive for Covid-19 to date”
“Less than 1 in 1000 fully vaccinated Americans have tested positive for Covid-19 to date”
— Dhruva Jaishankar (@d_jaishankar) July 30, 2021
What a misleading, click-baity headline. Good grief. https://t.co/2baZr0wWri
— Bryan Luhn (@bryluhn) July 30, 2021
I agree the % should be in the headline
— Carl Quintanilla (@carlquintanilla) July 30, 2021
“Exclusive: Less than 1% of fully vaccinated people have tested positive for COVID-19” would seem a more responsible headline and tweet.
— Anne Lutz Fernandez (@lutzfernandez) July 30, 2021
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