Countries With Vaccination Rates Below Expectations Post Unusually Negative Attitudes About Vaccines On Twitter
The research summary is a brief overview of interesting scholarly work.
The big idea
In countries where COVID-19 vaccination rates are lower than expected, mentions of side effects and negative emotions dominated mainstream social media discourse on COVID-19 vaccinesaccording to our new research published in the journal Vaccines.
Our team wanted to understand if the tone of social media conversations around the world matched different country-level vaccination rates. To do this, we analyzed more than 21.3 million tweets in 33 languages from 192 countries posted between November 2020 and August 2021, looking for any tweet mentioning “COVID-19” and “vaccine” or “vaccination”. We then calculated the percentages of those tweets that mentioned keywords signifying adverse events of vaccination, such as side effects, blood clots or death.
Additionally, we used an artificial intelligence algorithm to analyze the sentiment and emotional tone of tweets. This algorithm can identify positive and negative feelings as well as emotions in language, such as joy, fear, sadness or anger. We applied the algorithm to tweets mentioning COVID-19 vaccines, which allowed us to measure the general emotional tendencies of different countries on Twitter.
Previous research has shown that emotions towards vaccines can influence whether a person decides to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Our study allowed us to examine this theory on a national scale.
Globally, 1.15% of tweets related to COVID-19 vaccines mentioned side effects. Sentiment toward vaccines was on average more negative than positive, with nearly twice as many negative tweets as positive. But interestingly, negative emotions like fear, sadness or anger appear only 0.7 times more often than joy in the world. Using these numbers as benchmarks, our analysis controlled for national socio-economic characteristics as well as the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths, then compared Twitter trends and country vaccination rates to global averages. We’ve removed ads and spam from our analysis, but we haven’t removed tweets that might be posted by bots because they are part of the Twitter landscape.
We found that when social media discourse on vaccination is more negative than the global average in a country, the vaccination rate tends to go up. be lower than expected.
In particular, a high prevalence of tweets mentioning “side effects” or displaying fear, sadness or anger was predictive of low vaccination rates. For example, 1.42% of tweets from South Africa mentioned “side effects” – more than the global average of 1.15% – and negative emotions appeared in tweets 1.55 times more often than joy – more than double the world average. At the time of our analysis, South Africa reported a 30% vaccination rate, lower than other countries with similar characteristics.
We found similar correlations between negative sentiment on Twitter and lower-than-expected vaccination rates in many other countriesincluding Namibia, Ukraine, Croatia, Poland, Mexico, the Philippines and Burma.
In the United States, fear, sadness or anger appeared almost as often as joy – showing more negativity than the global average. At the time of the analysis, the vaccination rate in the United States was 72%, lower than the 80% or more in many other high-income countries, such as Germany and Canada.
why is it important
In most developed countries, including the United States, many people are refusing vaccines even if the vaccines are plentiful and easily accessible.
Social media has been a essential means of disseminating information on COVID-19. But Twitter, Facebook and other platforms have also been inundated with misinformation and misinformation — as well as people’s personal feelings about vaccination — since the pandemic began. Research shows that the more people are exposed to information about COVID-19 via social media, the more less accurate their knowledge about COVID-19.
Our research expands on these findings at the individual level and shows that social media discourses are also associated with vaccination behavior at the national level.
What is not yet known
Our results show a correlation between social media discourse and vaccination, but this type of analysis cannot identify causality. We also haven’t explored why some countries display more negative emotions in tweets than others. It could be related to cultural differences Between the countries.
Another limit is due to the imprecision of the language. The AI system we used is relatively good at characterizing feelings and emotions in a tweet, but not 100% accurate. Also, the AI isn’t as powerful when analyzing tweets in languages other than English.
The World Health Organization has declared the widespread misinformation about COVID-19 an infodemicand 132 countries have agreed to fight it. Our findings support the idea that global efforts to counter misinformation, address negative emotions, and promote positive language surrounding COVID-19 vaccination on social media can help increase global vaccination rates.