Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Analyzing the vaccination debate in social media data Pre- and Post-COVID-19 pandemic

In the past we have written about how vaccination is discussed on social media but such studies were often just focused on short study periods (i.e. a month). However, with the current COVID-19 pandemic we thought we would revisit the vaccination  debate and see if it has changed. So in a new paper with Qingqing Chen entitled "Analyzing the vaccination debate in social media data Pre- and Post-COVID-19 pandemic," we did just that. We explored approximately 11.7 million tweets posted between January 2015 to July 2021 and measured and mapped vaccine sentiments (Pro-vaccine, Anti-vaccine, and Neutral) across the US. Not to ruin the surprise of what we found but also to encourage you to read the paper we will not write about the results here. Only show the abstract of the paper, a few of the figures and a link to the paper itself.


The COVID-19 virus has caused and continues to cause unprecedented impacts on the life trajectories of millions of people globally. Recently, to combat the transmission of the virus, vaccination campaigns around the world have become prevalent. However, while many see such campaigns as positive (e.g., protecting lives), others see them as negative (e.g., the side effects that are not fully understood scientifically), resulting in diverse sentiments towards vaccination campaigns. In addition, the diverse sentiments have seldom been systematically quantified let alone their dynamic changes over space and time. To shed light on this issue, we propose an approach to analyze vaccine sentiments in space and time by using supervised machine learning combined with word embedding techniques. Taking the United States as a test case, we utilize a Twitter dataset (approximately 11.7 million tweets) from January 2015 to July 2021 and measure and map vaccine sentiments (Pro-vaccine, Anti-vaccine, and Neutral) across the nation. In doing so, we can capture the heterogeneous public opinions within social media discussions regarding vaccination among states. Results show how positive sentiment in social media has a strong correlation with the actual vaccinated population. Furthermore, we introduce a simple ratio between Anti and Pro-vaccine as a proxy to quantify vaccine hesitancy and show how our results align with other traditional survey approaches. The proposed approach illustrates the potential to monitor the dynamics of vaccine opinion distribution online, which we hope, can be helpful to explain vaccination rates for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Keywords: COVID-19, Pandemic, Vaccination Sentiment Analysis, Time and Space, Social Media, United States.

Overview of our research pipeline.

Comparison between Twitter data and Google Trends. (a) Distribution of keywords search and tweets over time; (b) Correlation between Google Trends and Twitter data of keywords search; (c) Important news or announcements catched on Twitter activity (Note: period is the shaded area in (a)).

Correlation between Pro-vaccine users and actual vaccination records (a) Spatial distribution of odds ratio of Pro-vaccine users; (b) Spatial distribution of odds ratio of actual vaccination records; (c) Correlation between the Pro-vaccine users and the actual vaccination records.

Full Reference: 

Chen, Q. and Crooks, A.T. (2022), Analyzing the Vaccination Debate in Social Media Data Pre- and Post-COVID-19 Pandemic, International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation, 110: 102783.  Available at https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jag.2022.102783 (pdf)

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