The Impact of Public Health Events on COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy on Chinese Social Media: National Infoveillance Study.JMIR Public Health Surveill. 2021 11 09; 7(11):e32936.JP
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented challenges to every country worldwide. A call for global vaccination for COVID-19 plays a pivotal role in the fight against this virus. With the development of COVID-19 vaccines, public willingness to get vaccinated has become an important public health concern, considering the vaccine hesitancy observed worldwide. Social media is powerful in monitoring public attitudes and assess the dissemination, which would provide valuable information for policy makers.
This study aimed to investigate the responses of vaccine positivity on social media when major public events (major outbreaks) or major adverse events related to vaccination (COVID-19 or other similar vaccines) were reported.
A total of 340,783 vaccine-related posts were captured with the poster's information on Weibo, the largest social platform in China. After data cleaning, 156,223 posts were included in the subsequent analysis. Using pandas and SnowNLP Python libraries, posts were classified into 2 categories, positive and negative. After model training and sentiment analysis, the proportion of positive posts was computed to measure the public positivity toward the COVID-19 vaccine.
The positivity toward COVID-19 vaccines in China tends to fluctuate over time in the range of 45.7% to 77.0% and is intuitively correlated with public health events. In terms of gender, males were more positive (70.0% of the time) than females. In terms of region, when regional epidemics arose, not only the region with the epidemic and surrounding regions but also the whole country showed more positive attitudes to varying degrees. When the epidemic subsided temporarily, positivity decreased with varying degrees in each region.
In China, public positivity toward COVID-19 vaccines fluctuates over time and a regional epidemic or news on social media may cause significant variations in willingness to accept a vaccine. Furthermore, public attitudes toward COVID-19 vaccination vary from gender and region. It is crucial for policy makers to adjust their policies through the use of positive incentives with prompt responses to pandemic-related news to promote vaccination acceptance.