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Why does it matter that Ms Secretary is struggling with disinformation about the vaccine

Murders appear as a villain in the last episode of the CBS show Mister Secretary . History reveals the risks of vaccination oscillation – and demonstrates the power of the fictional TV show to report facts.

The episode was timely accepted with the presence of measles in recent news. Epidemics are spreading across the country, and Facebook, Google and Amazon technology giants are at risk of spreading disinformation against vaccines on their platforms. But time is just a coincidence, according to executive producer David Gry. Even before measles began to make news in 201

9, the Ms. Secretary's staff had an episode of fluctuation of the vaccine at work. "We all know about this idea of ​​anti-vaccination and how dangerous it is," says Gre. "The idea that we can lose the immunity of the herd – we really need responsible leadership around the world to make sure this is not happening."

One of the main storylines in the episode concerns Secretary of State Secretary Daisy Grant (played by Patina Miller), who returns from a cruise just to quarantine with her young daughter, Joanna. They find that Joanna's girlfriend, another child on the cruise, has not been vaccinated and has been infected with measles during her journey. Joanna has received one dose of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine for which the show explains that she is 93 percent effective: Joanna falls into the remaining 7 percent. She passes, but the unvaccinated friend of Joanna suffers from a complication of measles called encephalitis, which causes her brain damage.

Mister Secretary of course is a fiction. But fiction can be a good vector for fact – at least when it's done properly, according to Beth Hoffman, a research assistant at the University of Pittsburgh's Center for the Media, Technology and Health Research. Hoffman and her colleagues look at what viewers learn from medical stories on television. And in several different papers, they report that television shows are particularly good at attracting students and the general public, for good or for bad.

In one article, they fanned the scientific literature to find several studies that explored what viewers take away from medical dramas like Gray's Anatomy . There is not much research there. But their review of the study, published in the 19459004 Health Education Research in 2017, reports that people swallow medical communications from television and sometimes even alter behaviors based on what they see on the screen. "Entertainment stories affect the perceptions, knowledge and behavior of viewers," Hoffman says. While she does not know any research on vaccine messages, she says, "There is good reason to believe that the plots of vaccine-preventable diseases can have a positive impact on the perception of the vaccine among individuals."

Mrs. Gray Gray says the whole team felt this responsibility and wanted to get their facts right – especially when they surround the controversial issue like vaccines. "It would not be artistically responsible to leave room for" Oh well, maybe it's good not to be vaccinated, "he says. – And when you want to do it right, Google is not enough. It's never enough when you have questions from the real world. "

So the writers of the show turned to Hollywood. , Health and Society, a program at the University of Southern California, the Amber Norman Lear Center, which helps to bridge the gap between the entertainment industry and health, science and security experts. (There is also a similar program in the National Academies of Sciences called "Scientific and Entertaining Exchange.") "We understand that it is a fiction and we must take some liberties," says Kate Foleb, Hollywood Director, Health & Society. But it is important that information on public health be as accurate as possible, she says. "We do not want to disinform the audience because we know they will act on it."

There are a few theories about why it is, says Folb. One is that immersion in a plot helps the intellectual defense of viewers. "You rooted yourself for your hero, you run through the forest with them. There you are with them, "says Folb. "So if and when information is presented, it sinks to a much deeper level." The other theory is that viewers can identify themselves and believe that the characters they relate to on TV shows – so it is so important for public health scientific information to be as accurate as possible. "Because it's soaked when you watch it," she says.

Vaccine expert Peter Hotez, Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor Medical College says he has previously consulted Hollywood, Health and Society but has not been involved in this episode. And besides some little talk – such as the low probability that Joanna would hire measles, even though she had a single dose of the vaccine – he applauded the way the episode treated measles and vaccinated. "It was really useful that they showed measles as it is: a serious illness," he says. "They have not tried to reject it as a benign disease or just a rash, and that's an important moment."

The episode deals with many important issues related to measles and vaccines, including disinformation, says Hotez. In the episode, the mother of the little girl who suffers from brain complications of measles explains why she has not vaccinated her daughter. He thought measles was completely eradicated from the US and was afraid of vaccinations because she had read articles. "There were all these articles about possible harm from the vaccines, then a study that said there was no evidence, then read another article – and you do not know what to think," says the mother in the show.

The writers of the show and the characters they created relate to this family with kindness: parents are not blamed for infecting another child, or for ridicule that they believe in anti-vaccine propaganda. They are treated as parents who want to do what is best for their child and who are misled by the spread of anti-vaccination propaganda that fails. This was partly due to the repeating symbols of the show and partly to the conscious choice of the team Ms after talking to the experts in Hollywood, Health and Society, says Gray. "You do not reach people by reproaching them. You reach people by explaining the truth without driving or telling people that they are stupid. "

Reaching people is something that TV is particularly good, says Hotez, who wrote a book about a vaccine researcher and a parent. with autism, called Vaccines do not cause Rachel's autism . "At the end of the day, many more people will be watching this episode of Ms Secretary than they will read my book," he says

The episode ends with a public announcement where Tea Leoni who plays the secretary of state tells the audience to go to https://www.unicefusa.org/vax for more information, and ultimately the team's goal is to make a dramatic show, but in this case they also have the opportunity to educate people. "It's profitable, it's good for everybody, so we're happy to do it," says Gray

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