Mandatory Vaccination Against COVID-19: Twitter Poll Analysis on Public Health Opinion

JMIR Form Res. 2022 Jun 21;6(6):e35754. doi: 10.2196/35754.


Background: On January 30, 2020, the World Health Organization Emergency Committee declared the rapid worldwide spread of COVID-19 a global health emergency. By December 2020, the safety and efficacy of the first COVID-19 vaccines had been demonstrated. However, international vaccination coverage rates have remained below expectations (in Europe at the time of manuscript submission). Controversial mandatory vaccination is currently being discussed and has already been introduced in some countries (Austria, Greece, and Italy). We used the Twitter survey system as a viable method to quickly and comprehensively gather international public health insights on mandatory vaccination against COVID-19.

Objective: The purpose of this study was to better understand the public's perception of mandatory COVID-19 vaccination in real time using Twitter polls.

Methods: Two Twitter polls were developed (in the English language) to seek the public's opinion on the possibility of mandatory vaccination. The polls were pinned to the Digital Health and Patient Safety Platform's (based in Vienna, Austria) Twitter timeline for 1 week in mid-November 2021, 3 days after the official public announcement of mandatory COVID-19 vaccination in Austria. Twitter users were asked to participate and retweet the polls to reach the largest possible audience.

Results: Our Twitter polls revealed two extremes on the topic of mandatory vaccination against COVID-19. Almost half of the 2545 respondents (n=1246, 49%) favor mandatory vaccination, at least in certain areas. This attitude contrasts with the 45.7% (n=1162) who categorically reject mandatory vaccination. Over one-quarter (n=621, 26.3%) of participating Twitter users said they would never get vaccinated, as reflected by the current Western European and North American vaccination coverage rate. Concatenating interpretation of these two polls should be done cautiously as participating populations might substantially differ.

Conclusions: Mandatory vaccination against COVID-19 (in at least certain areas) is favored by less than 50%, whereas it is opposed by almost half of the surveyed Twitter users. Since (social) media strongly influences public perceptions and views, and social media discussions and surveys are specifically susceptible to the "echo chamber effect," the results should be interpreted as a momentary snapshot. Therefore, the results of this study need to be complemented by long-term surveys to maintain their validity.

Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; Twitter; coronavirus; hesitancy; mandatory; mandatory vaccination; opinion; perception; poll; public health; questionnaire; social media; support; survey; vaccination; vaccination hesitancy; vaccine.