Development of a Codebook of Online Anti-Vaccination Rhetoric to Manage COVID-19 Vaccine Misinformation

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Jul 15;18(14):7556. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18147556.


Vaccine hesitancy (delay in obtaining a vaccine, despite availability) represents a significant hurdle to managing the COVID-19 pandemic. Vaccine hesitancy is in part related to the prevalence of anti-vaccine misinformation and disinformation, which are spread through social media and user-generated content platforms. This study uses qualitative coding methodology to identify salient narratives and rhetorical styles common to anti-vaccine and COVID-denialist media. It organizes these narratives and rhetorics according to theme, imagined antagonist, and frequency. Most frequent were narratives centered on "corrupt elites" and rhetorics appealing to the vulnerability of children. The identification of these narratives and rhetorics may assist in developing effective public health messaging campaigns, since narrative and emotion have demonstrated persuasive effectiveness in other public health communication settings.

Keywords: COVID-19; anti-vax; attitudinal inoculation; disinformation; misinformation; public health communication; vaccine hesitancy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19 Vaccines
  • COVID-19*
  • Child
  • Communication
  • Humans
  • Pandemics
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Social Media*
  • Vaccination
  • Vaccines*


  • COVID-19 Vaccines
  • Vaccines

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