The MMR vaccine became front-page news in early February 2002, in a much reported controversy about alleged links between MMR and autism. We examine both media content and public opinion and knowledge to explore how this controversy was presented, and, in turn, how this coverage influenced public perceptions. The news coverage of MMR was monitored over a seven and a half month period from 28 January to 15 September, 2002. Two national surveys were conducted—in April and in October, 2002—both based on over 1000 face to face interviews, with the purpose of exploring what the public learned from the coverage, and how this information may have influenced attitudes towards the vaccine. We will argue that the media's critical scrutiny of those supporting MMR was not matched by a rigorous examination of the case against it, and that the public was, as a consequence, often misinformed about the level of risk involved.
© Walter de Gruyter