Canada’s federally funded Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) paid journalists to “encourage vaccine confidence” during the COVID pandemic.
In 2021, as part of Canada PromoScience grant funding, NSERC handed up to $50,000 to dozens of academics and others working for science organizations. The grants were titled “Encouraging Vaccine Confidence in Canada.”
Canada’s open grant database shows that at least two journalists also received funding to do so. NSERC gave journalists Scott White from The Conversation Canada and Josee Nadia Drouin from Agence Science-Presse Canadian tax dollars to promote vaccine confidence.
White, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of The Conversation Canada confirmed with The Counter Signal that his outlet published a series of articles as part of the federally-funded program. Dozens of articles on his outlet’s website can be found that aligned with the objectives of the grant.
“Vaccine hesitancy: Why doing your own research doesn’t work, but reason alone won’t change minds” headlines one article from February 2022.
“Myocarditis: COVID-19 is a much bigger risk to the heart than vaccination,” reads another from January 2022.
“What’s crucial for public health is widespread vaccination uptake,” another article argues.
Yet another article suggests that the benefits of COVID vaccinating children aged five years and up outweigh the risks from the experimental vaccines.
“It is dangerous to be unvaccinated right now,” states one article targeting Albertans.
Asked if his outlet ever considered reaching out to academic and science experts who were in some way critical of the COVID vaccines, such as those from the Canadian COVID care alliance, White said “You could peruse the stories and make that determination.”
None of the articles appear to do so.
As previously reported, some Canadian science experts had concerns about the safety or efficacy of the COVID vaccines, and studies showed vaccines increase the risk of myocarditis for young males.
Drouin from Agence Science-Presse declined to respond for comment. However, scanning through her media outlet’s articles on COVID indicates that she, too, dutifully fulfilled the grant’s objectives.
For example, one article pushed the claim that the COVID vaccines saved 20 million lives. Another one is titled “The contagion of anti-vaxxers.”
The Counter Signal inquired with NSERC about how the practice of paying journalists might impact Canadians’ trust in their research institutions but did not receive a response before publication.