Of late, few topics capture the hearts and minds of consumers so much as those swirling around the COVID-19 vaccination conversation. In this piece, we’ll explore what we’ve discovered about the vaccination landscape and share how we see consumer perception shifting over time.
Capturing the COVID-19 Vaccine Conversation
COVID-19 conversations impact everything, so we wanted to better understand how different aspects of this conversation were evolving. We narrowed our focus specifically around vaccines, as it’s the hot button topic right now and will continue to be for the coming months as the world works to get the pandemic under control.
Exploring the COVID-19 vaccine conversation, we found that there were 30-40 themes around it. In this article, we focused on a select few. To learn about the rest, see more HERE or reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org for the full report.
As part of our process, we knew (and it was reflected in the data) there was a lot of misinformation, including conspiracy theories, and some vaccine hesitancy conversation directly tied to that. So, as the vaccines moved from talking points to reality, we wanted to see how the conversation shifted along with it. We took a deep dive into our consumer intelligence to find out:
- Would perceptions change over time? If so, how?
- What would be effective triggers to activate those changes?
- How does this look in real-time?
- How are people actually talking about it?
- What can we expect that key turning point to be?
Understanding these data points would offer insight around how the health care industry handles misinformation and it could also inform on some future best practices.
Tracking the Ebb and Flow of Anti-Vaccination Fears
When peeling back the layers of conversation around vaccine hesitancy, we began at the start of talks about vaccine development. Here, we see a groundswell of generalized fear about it and potential microchipping. And that fear continues at a steady hum with very little encouragement – also very little discouragement:
Could it have been quelled with more early interventions around the more outlandish claims, in particular? Educational components designed to share projected efficacy based on historical vaccination benchmarks? Perhaps. But the initial exaggerated response around being unable to trust anything created so quickly took hold, and it was left unchecked for too long.
With fears of Russian hacking of the vaccine development process in August, followed by the AstraZeneca trial being stopped in September, people’s worst fears were pushed to the forefront. And as the months wore on, even though the pharmaceutical companies pledged not to rush the vaccine, the conversation became progressively more nuanced and conspiratorial.
As FDA approvals loomed, the focus shifted to worries around long-term effects and situational reasons one could not get it, including allergies, pregnancy, and so on. Though conversely, the spike in conversation is trending positively and is now focused more on distribution.
So, short of some influential voices leading the charge, we see the conversations around vaccine hesitancy—and the conspiracy theories in particular—becoming fringe as more people are successfully vaccinated. This shift can also be attributed, in part, to the many voices supporting these fears being removed from Twitter. So, the conversation still exists but is happening in isolated pockets online.
Also, as we examined overall COVID-19 conversation volume, another camp that has been vocal about vaccination concerns emerged.
Minority Community Sharing Distinct Vaccination Concerns
When considering COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on the minority community, there have been different worries to work through.
In May, when the world first started to realize that COVID-19 infection rates were higher in Black communities, access to health care became a major concern. With conversations about vaccinations, the broader history around the Tuskegee experiments came into focus and has stayed top of mind since. There’s more hesitancy within the Black community toward the vaccines—and for good reason.
As a result, leaders and pastors in the community are encouraging vaccination. And this has proven effective. We can see a very prominent rise in conversations there from December through the end of February.
But what about other vaccine-hesitant people—those who are no longer engaging online? How is that conversation shifting?
Tactics That are Taking Hold
Tracking these and other conversations, from what we can see, tactics that are taking hold with consumers and helping reframe the issue follow a path similar to that which we see working in the Black community. Health care providers are combatting misinformation by:
- Sharing the doctor’s voice
- Having the health care experts act as vaccine ambassadors online
- Enlisting support from relatable community members
Similar to other word-of-mouth type campaigns, the community participation component has been huge. Exploring social media, one can’t help but see imagery of friends and loved ones sharing that they’ve been vaccinated. And seeing someone relatable participate encourages those who are afraid to let their guard down a bit and reconsider their stance.
Also, with talk of distribution taking over, the conspiracy and misinformation posts are edged out of existence due to the sheer volume of conversation. This includes the media, which has been focused on sharing vaccine distribution center information, as well as various fact-based documentaries, and a showcasing celebrities and respected community and political leaders as they receive vaccines. As a result, trust levels are slowly increasing. And the conversations against the vaccine are slowing decreasing.
But the unfortunate truth remains – the speed at which all of this is happening is slower than it could be. The educational campaigns are trending positively and have been well received by consumers across most demographics, imagine if this had been deployed sooner? Hindsight is 20/20, for sure – but it’s also something that can be captured in real-time with consumer intelligence. We predict doing so will become more of a norm as we move forward. It will have to.
Overall, we’ve seen that respected voices – whether the source is industry experts, community leaders, or the neighbor next door – do lead the way and can have a bigger impact on this conversation than previously realized. Had these voices been activated sooner, the misinformation and conspiracy conversations could have undoubtedly been lessened earlier. As health care systems plan for future roll–outs, identifying these potential community leaders and activating them immediately will help create more impactful, rapid roll-outs of whatever remedies. Forbes Tate Partners would be happy to walk you through how this process looks! Reach out to email@example.com for more information on this study or contact the team at NetBase Quid for an overview of the tool in general!