Having started the vaccination campaign, the disinformation that circulated about the pandemic and vaccines was growing. In order to counter it, we elaborated a feature opening data to communicate more effectively and clear all the information regarding the vaccines, how many would be delivered, number of doses, their origin and regulatory aspects. It consisted in showing the main aspects of each vaccine in an infographical and agile way, with the possibility that any data visualization could be shared in social media. This work, developed in house, was implemented by other fact checkers in Bolivia, Ecuador, México and Paraguay.
It’s almost a year since we published the feature “Vacunas en la Argentina”, a few weeks after the first dose arrived in our country, and the positive impact that we had is clear in two dimensions besides the millions of views in our website and social networks. Firstly, several media outlets got interested in republishing this development and the format of our original idea. In this sense, that was how colleagues like El Surti (from Paraguay), Verificado (from Mexico), Ecuador Chequea and Bolivia Verifica used in their sites the layout, design, backend and some of the information of the feature that was published by Chequeado.
In second place, there were many specialized journalists and users in social media who took advantage of this concise and updated information about the vaccines in Argentina. They tended to use it as a reference to clarify doubts and debunk disinformation. In regard to that, we include some complementary links to let you see some of the tweets that represent the reach of our actions.
All data and the infographics about how many doses were received in our country in relation to the amount that the state had been committed to are daily updated still nowadays. We were looking for a simple and flexible development and also thinking that it would probably be used by foreign organizations from other countries. This process is implemented thanks to a tool that was built in React.js by the team of developers in Chequeado through Google Sheets.
When we built a monitoring and visualization infrastructure there wasn’t complete open data, so we obtained the information through requests for access to public information on vaccine expiration dates and available stock. But in mid 2021, the Ministry of Health started to publish the information about the vaccination campaign, so we adapted to it to continue updating the dashboards.
Further, the feature about the vaccines had various data visualizations that updates day to day through the automatized intake built in house of the databases in regard with the vaccination in a disaggregated format.
We decided to monitor the open data and create that data visualizations taking into account many indicators that were not available neither in the monitoring of the Ministry of Health nor other native digital media from Argentina.
The fulfillment of the monitoring and data visualizations were only possible thanks to the opening of the database published by the Ministry of Health that we did and its daily and trustworthy update, because of that we were able to automate the download, the information processing and the visualization of data.
What was the hardest part of this project?
While working with extremely large amounts of information, the most challenging tasks we had to do were to find a proper way to update all the data daily, to define the information architecture, what should be included and what excluded to give sense to a diversity of vaccines and in different countries. The key was to develop a tool specifically built to provide solutions for the necessities of this project.
As a result of our labour in organizing, updating and presenting the vaccines’ information in infographics, we succeeded in encouraging the state to open the data about vaccination, motivating other journalists and media to use the pieces we created and reaching more people with reliable information.
What can others learn from this project?
The solution may not be always running an article to tell the events and answer “the five W”. This is one of the most relevant learning experiences that this project has demonstrated. Frequently, it might be the same or even more convenient to present the information in an infographic way instead of a traditional publication. The reason why other journalists can learn from this development is connected to the main purpose of the content, this means to design contents prioritizing a useful format to increase the times it will be shared on social media, because it allows journalists and media outlets to reach more people and diverse audiences with information which is verified and based on data.
The second lesson is how we can take advantage of collaborative work. It shouldn’t be an option, it must always be part of our projects even more when it’s about joining allies to combat disinformation and the infodemic. Collaborating with other media and organizations allow us to amplify our capacities and optimize the resources to convey better and more information as soon as possible for the purpose of reducing the viralization curve of disinformation.