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Understanding the Public's Attitudes Toward COVID-19 Vaccines in Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom: Qualitative Social Media Analysis

Publication date: 

29 Mar 2023


J Med Internet Res. 2023 Mar 29;25:e38404. doi: 10.2196/38404. PMID: 36812390; PMCID: PMC10131830


Jones LF, Bonfield S, Farrell J and Weston D

Publication type: 



Abstract Background: COVID-19 vaccines remain central to the UK government's plan for tackling the COVID-19 pandemic. Average uptake of 3 doses in the United Kingdom stood at 66.7% as of March 2022; however, this rate varies across localities. Understanding the views of groups who have low vaccine uptake is crucial to guide efforts to improve vaccine uptake. Objective: This study aims to understand the public's attitudes toward COVID-19 vaccines in Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom. Methods: A qualitative thematic analysis of social media posts from Nottinghamshire-based profiles and data sources was conducted. A manual search strategy was used to search the Nottingham Post website and local Facebook and Twitter accounts from September 2021 to October 2021. Only comments in the public domain and in English were included in the analysis. Results: A total of 3508 comments from 1238 users on COVID-19 vaccine posts by 10 different local organizations were analyzed, and 6 overarching themes were identified: trust in the vaccines, often characterized by a lack of trust in vaccine information, information sources including the media, and the government; beliefs about safety including doubts about the speed of development and approval process, the severity of side effects, and belief that the ingredients are harmful; belief that the vaccines are not effective as people can still become infected and spread the virus and that the vaccines may increase transmission through shedding; belief that the vaccines are not necessary due to low perceived risk of death and severe outcomes and use of other protective measures such as natural immunity, ventilation, testing, face coverings, and self-isolation; individual rights and freedoms to be able to choose to be vaccinated or not without judgement or discrimination; and barriers to physical access. Conclusions: The findings revealed a wide range of beliefs and attitudes toward COVID-19 vaccination. Implications for the vaccine program in Nottinghamshire include communication strategies delivered by trusted sources to address the gaps in knowledge identified while acknowledging some negatives such as side effects alongside emphasizing the benefits. These strategies should avoid perpetuating myths and avoid using scare tactics when addressing risk perceptions. Accessibility should also be considered with a review of current vaccination site locations, opening hours, and transport links. Additional research may benefit from using qualitative interviews or focus groups to further probe on the themes identified and explore the acceptability of the recommended interventions. Keywords: COVID-19; Facebook; Twitter; content analysis; infodemic; infodemiology; misinformation; online health information; qualitative; social media; transmission; vaccine; vaccine hesitancy.