COVID-19 vaccines: Social media user sentiments and strategies to encourage administration

Although the pandemic continues to influence lives around the world, recent advances in vaccine development and distribution offer hope for relief. However, there is still uncertainty and misinformation surrounding the efficacy and safety of the vaccines. Clarivate experts Shubhita Thukraal and Vyshnavi Manda uncover consumer and healthcare worker attitudes based on analysis of social media – and the strategies these findings offer to encourage uptake.

 

Healthcare organizations use various communication methods like social media, blogs and onsite signage to spread awareness about the benefits of COVID-19 vaccines. Social media is especially critical in sharing data on the safety and efficacy of authorized vaccines, which can encourage individuals, including healthcare workers, to get vaccinated.

 

Current sentiments of social media users and healthcare workers

Clarivate social intelligence experts analyzed user comments on Twitter to understand evolving perspectives on vaccines. They observed a significant shift from September to January, with a rise in the percentage of users eager to take shots. The major findings of the analysis are:

 

Vaccine skepticism decreases among social media users

 

Clarivate experts saw negative user sentiment towards getting the vaccine in posts from September to October 2020, highlighting concerns about vaccine safety. However, posts from November 2020 to January 2021 indicates a shift in attitude, with more users sharing positive experiences and their willingness to get vaccinated.

This shift in sentiment may be influenced by several factors, such as the initial data circulated by vaccine developers in early November. Revealing the high efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines, this data may have helped boost public confidence.

Approximately one-sixth of users in the sample analyzed said that they had already received a vaccine and were facing some side effects, the most frequent of which was sore arms.

 

Most healthcare workers advocate vaccines, some share side effects

The analysis also included social users who identified as healthcare workers. Many of these users shared positive experiences and expressed gratitude towards the researchers who developed vaccines in such a short period of time.

Healthcare workers who have not received vaccines often serve as advocates on Twitter, expressing interest in getting vaccinated as soon as possible to reduce the risk associated with treating COVID-19 patients. Some front-line staff have taken the shots and experienced some side effects, but remain in favor of vaccination.

One user, who identified themself as a nurse working at a hospital, stated:

 

“I’m 100 percent in support of vaccination!! I received my second Pfizer COVID-19 shot on Saturday as a frontline ED nurse. At hour 8 post-shot I was sleepy and achy. It lasted 24 hours. I promise you’ll feel better by Wednesday!!”

 

However, 17% of healthcare workers in the sample said they were not in favor of being vaccinated. Reasons for their decline included preexisting medical conditions and concerns about side effects.

 

Strategies to improve healthcare worker vaccination rates

With nearly one-fifth of healthcare workers continuing to express concerns and hesitancy over receiving COVID-19 vaccines, many healthcare organizations are establishing strategies to address staff concerns and gain their buy-in.

Organizations such as the CDC recommend that healthcare facilities encourage vaccine confidence by incorporating the following strategies:

  • Encourage senior leaders to be vaccine champions and share stories on social media, blogs and other channels.
  • Communicate frequently with staff and host discussions to address any questions or concerns.
  • Share key information and updates on vaccines with staff using internal communication channels such as emails, posters and the organization’s intranet where applicable.
  • Educate staff on COVID-19 vaccines and share details on their safety and efficacy.
  • Emphasize the importance and benefits of vaccinations and create a feedback mechanism such as a dedicated phone line, internal FAQ or social media livestream to answer staff questions.
  • Ensure the visibility of staff receiving vaccinations by developing photo galleries of vaccinated staff or by reaching out to local news outlets.

Along with developing practices to increase staff awareness, several healthcare organizations are offering additional incentives (for example, gift cards or time off) to drive higher vaccination rates among staff.

Communicating the importance of vaccines to healthcare workers is one of the most recommended strategies to drive vaccination rates and reduce hesitancy.

For instance, earlier this year Houston Methodist offered a $500 bonus to all its employees receiving a COVID-19 vaccine to encourage and improve vaccination rates. Similarly, several healthcare facilities are providing gift cards or free breakfasts at certain restaurants to increase the number of staff receiving the COVID-19 vaccines.

Communicating the importance of vaccines to healthcare workers is one of the most recommended strategies to drive vaccination rates and reduce hesitancy. Such strategies can encourage healthcare workers’ confidence in vaccines, which in turn can promote trust among the general population as well.

 

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