COVID Vaccine: How to Communicate Reliably and Combat Disinformation

Free Virtual Event: January 13, 12 pm ET



We start 2021 with a COVID vaccine, but the rollout has been slower than planned and a coordinated public health communication effort is needed to convince people to get vaccinated. Public opinion research shows a number of challenges: some people are justifiably skeptical of “big Pharma” and government; others are actively working to spread disinformation about the vaccine; and many remain unconvinced of the vaccine’s safety. What is being done to overcome these challenges, how can communicators be most effective, and how can reporters best cover the vaccination story and combat the disinformation?

Join the National Press Club Journalism Institute and the National Press Club Communicators Committee for a candid conversation on the COVID vaccine: Communication challenges for public health efforts & reporters.

Registration is now open for this program, which will take place from 12-1 p.m. EST on Wednesday, January 13, 2021.

The panel will feature Jesse Holland, Assistant Professor of Journalism at George Washington University, author, scholar and African American history expert; Nick Sugai, Vice President at the Ad Council, which is leading a national public education campaign to encourage vaccination; Susan Winckler, CEO of the Reagan-Udall Foundation for the Food and Drug Administration, who will share public opinion research on the vaccination. The conversation will be moderated by Alison Fitzgerald Kodjak, Investigations Editor at The Associated Press, and the 112th president of the National Press Club.

Participants will leave the program able to:

  • Use insights into public opinion about the COVID vaccine to share effective messages that encourage vaccination and address people’s concerns
  • Dispel myths and fight disinformation about the vaccine
  • Report on and communicate about the vaccine in a culturally appropriate manner

About the Speakers

Jesse J. Holland is an award-winning writer, journalist and television personality. He hosts the Saturday edition of C-SPAN’s Washington Journal and serves as a commentator for NPR’s Here & Now and Black News Channel’s DC Today. He also can be seen occasionally on MSNBC, CNN, Fox and other networks for news and opinion. He is currently serving as an assistant professor at the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University, where he teaches beginning newswriting, advanced newswriting, and culture reporting.

Holland was a longtime Race & Ethnicity writer for The Associated Press, as well as serving as a White House, Supreme Court and Congressional reporter. During his two decades in the nation’s capital, he was one of the few reporters to be a credentialed member of all three members of the major Washington press corps.

Nick Sugai is VP, Group Campaign Director at the Ad Council where he leads purpose-driven marketing campaigns across a range of issues. In his nine years at the Ad Council, Sugai has worked with a variety of partners, pro bono advertising agencies, and non-profit and government sponsors to promote positive social change and drive measurable change through advertising. His campaigns have been recognized by the Effie Awards in each of the past 4 years, including the 2020 Effie Award for Brand Partnerships.

Sugai is also a founding member of the Ad Council’s Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Council – and founder of the Ad Council Ambassadors program to build relationships with a more diverse array of students and future advertising leaders. He joined the Ad Council from the Global Business Coalition for Health, where he helped mobilize the private sector towards tackling global health issues. Sugai holds a B.A. in Economics from Amherst College and an M.B.A. in Digital Marketing and Management from the NYU Stern School of Business.

Susan C. Winckler, RPh, Esq., is CEO of the Reagan-Udall Foundation for the Food and Drug Administration. The Foundation is the non-profit organization created by Congress to advance the mission of the FDA.

Prior to accepting the Foundation post, Ms. Winckler served as President of Leavitt Partners Solutions, a national healthcare strategy firm founded by Gov. Michael O. Leavitt, former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Ms. Winckler also served as Chief Risk Management Officer for the entire Leavitt Partners family of businesses. A pharmacist and attorney by training, Ms. Winckler was CEO of the Food & Drug Law Institute, and before that Chief of Staff for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, simultaneously leading FDA’s Offices of Legislation, External Relations, Public Affairs, and Executive Secretariat. Her earlier career service included more than a decade at the American Pharmacists Association in a series of positions of increasing responsibility.

About the Moderator

Alison Fitzgerald Kodjak is Investigations Editor at The Associated Press. She had worked as a reporter and editor at AP from 1997 to 2000. Before rejoining AP, Kodjak worked at National Public Radio as a health policy correspondent. She has also held reporting and editing posts at the Center for Public Integrity, Bloomberg News, The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Palm Beach Post, among other news organizations. She is the co-author of a 2011 book about the BP oil disaster, “In Too Deep: BP and the Drilling Race That Took It Down,” and the winner of three George Polk Awards. Fitzgerald Kodjak was the 112th president of the National Press Club and a member of the board of directors of the National Press Club Journalism Institute.

About NPCJI’s Programs

The National Press Club Journalism Institute has added online programming, a daily newsletter, a weekly writing group, and other support for journalists since the pandemic started, and the Institute has waived fees for everything due to the COVID-19 pandemic at a savings of more than $52,000 to participants like you. If you value what you’ve been learning from the Institute during this time, please consider a donation of $5, $10, or whatever you can contribute.

Contact Journalism Institute Executive Director Julie Moos with questions.