Background: With the approval of two COVID-19 vaccines in Canada, many people feel a sense of relief, as hope is on the horizon. However, only about 75% of people in Canada plan to receive one of the vaccines.
Objective: The purpose of this study is to determine the reasons why people in Canada feel hesitant toward receiving a COVID-19 vaccine.
Methods: We screened 3915 tweets from public Twitter profiles in Canada by using the search words "vaccine" and "COVID." The tweets that met the inclusion criteria (ie, those about COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy) were coded via content analysis. Codes were then organized into themes and interpreted by using the Theoretical Domains Framework.
Results: Overall, 605 tweets were identified as those about COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy. Vaccine hesitancy stemmed from the following themes: concerns over safety, suspicion about political or economic forces driving the COVID-19 pandemic or vaccine development, a lack of knowledge about the vaccine, antivaccine or confusing messages from authority figures, and a lack of legal liability from vaccine companies. This study also examined mistrust toward the medical industry not due to hesitancy, but due to the legacy of communities marginalized by health care institutions. These themes were categorized into the following five Theoretical Domains Framework constructs: knowledge, beliefs about consequences, environmental context and resources, social influence, and emotion.
Conclusions: With the World Health Organization stating that one of the worst threats to global health is vaccine hesitancy, it is important to have a comprehensive understanding of the reasons behind this reluctance. By using a behavioral science framework, this study adds to the emerging knowledge about vaccine hesitancy in relation to COVID-19 vaccines by analyzing public discourse in tweets in real time. Health care leaders and clinicians may use this knowledge to develop public health interventions that are responsive to the concerns of people who are hesitant to receive vaccines.
Keywords: COVID-19; Canada; Twitter; behavior; behavioral science; content analysis; framework; hesitancy; immunization; infodemiology; infoveillance; social media; vaccine; vaccine hesitancy.
©Janessa Griffith, Husayn Marani, Helen Monkman. Originally published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (http://www.jmir.org), 13.04.2021.