Vaccine confidence is multi-layered and complex. There exist a wide range of contributors that influence an individual’s willingness to receive a vaccine for a specific disease. These can range from the factual—the efficacy of the vaccine, and risks involved—to external prompts, like receiving assurance and involved discussion from healthcare providers; to individual beliefs—personal opinions and trust in science. In this project, Media-based contributors have particular significance due to its cultural impact in the modern age, thus making online media important as a medium of communication and information sharing.
The impetus behind leveraging media-based sources for this framework stems from extensive research drawing a link between media exposure and content with our perceptions and confidence in vaccines. Mainstream media remains one of the most important sources of information, and in some countries, is the most trusted. Coupled with the exponential rise and reliance on social media for sources of information, media-based indicators form a key part of vaccine confidence and this framework. Further, these data sources plug the gap between existing vaccine confidence indexes that are survey-based and static, rather than dynamic.
We separate drivers of media-based vaccine confidence into the frequency of exposure and content of media.
frequency of media exposure purports that the number of narratives one reads or hears about vaccines—for instance, authentic, emotional stories about the occurrence of certain rare but harrowing vaccine-related events (e.g. stories about side effects, mishandled vaccine administration)—can influence how one perceives vaccination risks, potentially overriding actual statistical information. Such emotionally poignant posts add a dimension of fear, stoking the flames against its perceived safety. As such, medical practitioners and healthcare professionals should keep a pulse on major stories related to specific vaccines, as such issues—albeit rare—may permeate public consciousness and induce hesitancy.
Furthermore, frequency of media exposure is important as vaccine hesitancy may simply stem from the lack of exposure to accurate health information. For instance, studies report low knowledge on non-mandated vaccines in more rural areas; travellers are less likely to get travel vaccinations due to lack of knowledge; misconceptions are rife (e.g. some erroneously believe that vaccines work as a cure rather than a form of prevention).
Second, the content of media is important in influencing confidence, with research finding that accessing vaccine-critical websites or content for five to 10 minutes increases the perception of risk of vaccinating. This issue is made more complicated by the ongoing encroachment of disinformation campaigns and anti-vaccine groups into online spaces. Globally, there exists a relationship between one’s exposure to such vaccine-critical content and mean vaccination rates. Population surveys find that small but substantial groups of people view vaccine misinformation as fact (e.g. erroneously believing that vaccines are intended to inject microchips into recipients, or are a direct cause of infertility).
Further bolstering the significance of media exposure and content are communication theories.
They suggest that the prevalent themes established in media has long-term effects on perceptions of social reality. The Agenda Setting Theory suggests that mainstream media has the ability to influence what the public perceives as important: News not given press coverage often dissipates since it lacks a vehicle of mass communication.
The Cultivation Theory posits that long-term exposure to certain media narratives shapes how consumers of media perceive the world and conduct themselves. For example, social media allows users to consume unfiltered content shared within and between their networks, reinforcing certain messages that gradually shapes perceptions on social reality. Within these networks, platforms, or communities, how vaccines are discussed—even casually—is important: how positively or negatively it is spoken about all work to gradually shape individual perception.
Based on these conceptually significant drivers of vaccine confidence, this project focuses on key metrics such as size of vaccine coverage and conversations, sentiments (positive or negative valence) toward a specific vaccine, and narratives surrounding vaccines (top keywords, emerging trending topic themes), and other socially relevant markers (peaks in mention frequency, significant events).
Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there remain many other important vaccinations that need to be continually advocated for. Hence, concerted effort to sustain media frequency, exposure, and positive content related to these vaccines is crucial. We can leverage these metrics to assess the extent required from stakeholders like policymakers and vaccine producers to move the needle in vaccination confidence, achieving effective end-to-end vaccine delivery.
About the analytics platform
Our media analytics platform accesses and collates data through its proprietary database of news and social media content across Asia Pacific. It allows us to explore real-time data from news and social media sources encompassing online websites, all major social networks (e.g. Twitter, Facebook), as well as blogs, discussion forums, and consumer review sites.
The platform can scan and harness media data for keyword mentions and trending topics pertaining to specific vaccines via Boolean searches to view quantitative metrics and extrapolate qualitative insights. The platform is limited by only publicly available data. 15-month historical archive of data for social media and online news media is available, including the full Twitter firehose.
Any inquiry into a vaccine-related topic begins with search terms. For example, keying in “vaccin*” will encompass all variations of the word (e.g. vaccine, vaccines, vaccination, vaccinations, vaccinated etc); similarly for “immuni*” (e.g. immunization, immunizations, immunize, immunized etc) etc) and “innocul* (e.g. inoculate, inoculation, inoculations, inoculated etc). Keywords may also extend beyond English to include equivalent terms like Bakuna, Vaksin, 疫苗, vắc xin, วัคซีน, across various target languages. These keywords can be further modified and refined depending on vaccine specificity. For example, a query into the flu vaccine may include, but is not limited to: Flu Vaccin* + Influenza Vaccin* + Flu shot + Flu jab, with additions in other target languages.
These searches can yield metrics such as:
- A vaccine confidence score, assigned via natural language processing, with a positive score indicating higher confidence, and negative one indicating low confidence.
- Top keywords and themes most frequently associated with the vaccine.
- Keyword frequency over time, used to monitor any significant events or controversies contributing in a spike in mentions.
- Top posts by engagement and social reach.
Further customizations are available: by date range and granularity (day, week, month, quarter, year), and filters for country and language. Data is most useful when compared between time periods.
The way forward
Using the analytics platform and the abovementioned metrices on media-based contributors of vaccine confidence, the project team can create custom insights focusing on vaccine confidence among Asia Pacific countries, with quantitative and qualitative analysis that may provide quantifiable impetus to move the needle in vaccine confidence.
Our insights may be used by healthcare professionals or by organizations or individuals gathering information on the topic, or used as a sample by those with log-in credentials for the analytics platform, to craft tailor-made insights on vaccine confidence across different time spans, locations, vaccine type, diseases, or languages of their choice.
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