• Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy on English-language Twitter

      Thelwall, Mike; Kousha, Kayvan; Thelwall, Saheeda (Ediciones Profesionales de la Informacion SL, 2021-03-15)
      Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy seems likely to increase mortality rates and delay the easing of social distancing restrictions. Online platforms with large audiences may influence vaccine hesitancy by spreading fear and misinformation that is avoided by the mainstream media. Understanding what types of vaccine hesitancy information is shared on the popular social web site Twitter may therefore help to design interventions to address misleading attitudes. This study applies content analysis to a random sample of 446 vaccine hesitant Covid-19 tweets in English posted between 10 March and 5 December 2020. The main themes discussed were conspiracies, vaccine development speed, and vaccine safety. Most (79%) of those tweeting refusal to take a vaccine expressed right-wing opinions, fear of a deep state, or conspiracy theories. A substantial minority of vaccine refusers (18%) mainly tweeted non-politically about other themes. The topics on Twitter reflect vaccine concerns, but those stating vaccine refusal in non-political contexts may unsettle the wider Twitter network by reaching outside right-wing areas of Twitter.