The obvious media question – what is the right answer ?

“Can you give us a 100% guarantee the AstraZeneca Vaccine is safe, Prime Minister?”

This question has either been asked, or will come up – and probably time and time again. What is the right answer to reassure the public, both in the UK and in the EU that this is the right vaccine to protect you from Coronavirus?

During the MMR vaccine controversy, the Chief Medical Officer at the time, (Sir) Liam Donaldson, was asked by Huw Edwards in a live interview on the BBC’s Ten O’Clock News, “Can you give us a 100% guarantee the vaccine is safe?”.

A scientists instincts are to say that nothing is 100% safe – this was a typical journalist’s trick question – disingenuous and a trap.

Turning the tricky question around

There is no right answer to this trick question. A reasonable answer could have been, “I am 100% confident that this is the right choice for your child. The MMR vaccine is the most tested vaccine in the history of medicine and measles is a potential killer disease. I am 100% confident this is the right choice if you want to protect your child.”

To be fair, scientists have become better at using the “safe” word in relation to vaccines, or indeed any form of medication.

However it is still not easy to answer the “100% guarantee question” with a straight “Yes”, either for politicians or scientists.

Responding to the “100% guarantee question”  

At some stage you need to trust the public to recognise a trick question when they hear one. The whole point of communication or a media interview is reassurance and persuasion. Be credible, factual and authentic.

Start a verbal response by saying that this is a safe vaccine, has been extensively tested, broadly used and been approved by the official regulator – the MHRA. In addition include the “100% confident” at the beginning, middle or end.

If pressed, you could simply stick to the facts around the AstraZeneca vaccine and say that it has already been given to over 13 million adults in the UK without any fatalities linked to it, yet Coronavirus has killed over 125,000 adults in the UK in the last year.

In addition, the vaccine has undergone extensive testing and been given a licence for medical use by the Regulator, the MHRA. They say that following a rigorous review of the data, there is no suggestion the vaccine causes blood clots. The benefits outweigh any risk. Their advice is that the public should take the vaccine to protect themselves from Coronavirus.

Above we have a suggested verbal response to the “100% guarantee question” and a blueprint for a more extensive written response for print or online media.

Media Friendly can help you answer the toughest of journalist questions, honest, or tricky and we will rehearse, rehearse and rehearse your key spokespeople, to be safe pair of hands interviewees, for radio or TV interviews – both live and pre-recorded, either remotely now, or face to face once lockdown eases.

Contact us and we can talk through your needs and come up with a tailored offering for your organisation. Call us on 01628 474154, email us at