From people with cow heads to bleach treatment. When epidemics come back again, the days of the anti-vaxxers will be numbered.

Category: Best data-driven reporting (small and large newsrooms)

Country/area: Poland

Organisation: Gazeta Wyborcza, Le Figaro, Le Soir, El Pais

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 21/12/2019

Credit: Danuta Pawlowska (leader, main author) cooperation with: Cedric Petit, Daniele Grasso, Marie Coussin

Project description:

Vaccination in Europe, increasing problem with anti-vaccination movement.  Cooperation four newsrooms in Europe: Gazeta Wyborcza, Le Figaro, Le Soir and El Pais.

History of immunization across Europe with focus on the anti-vaccinations movement, number of cases per 100.000 citizens during the years, number of deaths, date of vaccine introduced, mandatory vaccinations schedule, vaccination coverage levels. We also created map with vaccination coverage levels in every EU countries, separate for different diseases and timeline with situation in countries.

Impact reached:

This investigation was a collaborative work four data journalism departments from Poland (Gazeta Wyborcza), Spain (El Pais), Belgium (Le Soir) and from France (Le Figaro). Measles is an illness for which humanity has had an effective vaccine for five decades. But in 2018, nearly 9 million people developed measles world-wide, and 142,000 died. On average, almost 400 people die every day; most of them children.
We collect data from health public institutions and arguments from ant vaccination movements, sceptics parents and rules in public institutions – for example schools. We collect also trick how parents try to avoid vaccinations their kids. We present myths and science facts. 
The first publication was in Poland in Gazeta Wyborcza, on paper and also on our data journalism department page (biqdata.wyborcza.pl) with interactive charts, in Polish and  English. Then our partners published their materials with a local focus. 
The public discussion about vaccination, actions and campaigns founds by antivaccination movement are in media, open areas in every European country. It is very dangerous because if general vaccination coverage will decrease above 95% all of us are not safe, ale people vaccinated years ago, the kid with another serious willes who could not be protected. 
Our readers are extremely interested in health topics. Antivaccination movements are a global problem, also indicate by WHO in their recommendation. People based on myths and scam, exposing theirself and others for dangerous.  


Techniques/technologies used:

We based on open datasets – statistic provided by national health institutions and official European websites. We also checked all the anti vaccinations page, network, connections, publications and actions. 
Charts were prepared in open tools – tableau public and datawrapper.de. 
Publication in the paper was prepared in adobe. During our work, we met with antivaccination activists, academics, and other authorities.  


What was the hardest part of this project?

The hardest part was to contact with antivaccination movement and collecting their arguments, myths. We also tried to find the connections and network across countries. We find out that they still based on the same scam – In 1998, Andrew Wakefield published the results of his research on children in the medical journal The Lancet. In 2010, Wakefield was struck off the medical register and stripped of the right to practice for the rest of his life. But the rumours about the association of autism disorders with vaccinations spread around the world, causing the development of antivaccination movements. And young parents still belives for that. 

What can others learn from this project?

This problem was that antivaccination movement is not the same news in our four countries. In Poland it is a hot topic, but for example in Belgium not. So, if you decide to analyze the same problem in different countries and create impressive materials with high quality for a difference audience, you must try to find local aspects, not just translate one version with a unique focus. Every partner adapted our collective work for their readers. 

Project links: