Winner: Sonya Pemberton, Genepool Productions.

A shot in the arm for science journalism: talking to the vaccine-concerned

Across the developed world we’re seeing a resurgence in vaccine-preventable diseases such as whooping cough, measles and rubella. Diseases unseen for a generation are making a comeback. Children are getting sick and dying. Not because vaccines aren’t available, but because fearful parents are choosing not to vaccinate.

But if vaccination is so safe, where does this fear come from?

And how should parents decide whether to vaccinate or not?

For her investigation of community confusion about vaccines in the documentary Jabbed—Love, Fear and Vaccines, Sonya Pemberton of Genepool Productions has won the Australian Government Eureka Prize for Science Journalism.

Jabbed examines the medical risks, explains the science of vaccination, and investigates the real cost of ‘opting out’.

“This is a powerful piece of science journalism,” Australian Museum Director and CEO Kim McKay said. “It explains the science of the situation clearly, but it also goes a step beyond the biological science to investigate and understand the fears of those who oppose vaccination.”

Sonya found that half of Australian parents who do vaccinate their child have serious reservations about whether they are really doing the right thing by their children or not.

Understanding this fear is the first step on the way to improving trust in vaccinations.

The US version, Vaccines—Calling the Shots, premieres in the USA on PBS NOVA Wednesday 10 September 9pm EST, the same day as it has won the Eureka Prize.

This is Sonya’s fourth Eureka Prize. Her previous winning documentaries were Alien Underworld (2003), Genius of Junk (2004) and Crude (2008). She also won an Emmy for Immortal (2012).

The Australian Museum Eureka Prizes are the country’s most comprehensive national science awards. The Eureka Prizes have been rewarding science since 1990—celebrating 25 years in 2014.

The other finalists were:

  • Sally Ingleton of 360 Degree Films for her film Acid Ocean on the acidification of the oceans by increased atmospheric carbon dioxide.
  • New Scientist reporter Michael Slezak, who presents the world's science to Australians and outstanding Australian science to the world.

Watch Sonya's YouTube video

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