Measuring concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine among Japanese netizens through search queries

Measuring concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine among Japanese netizens through search queries

COVID vaccine: Who seeks reassurance?

Credit: Nara Institute of Science and Technology

Using a vaccine concern index based on Internet searches for the COVID-19 vaccine, NAIST researchers found that searches for “adverse reactions” are positively correlated with uptake, which online resources can help encourage vaccination. The study appears in Scientific reports.

Since becoming available, COVID-19 vaccines have played a critical role in preventing deaths. However, vaccination rates in many developed countries are below the expectations of public health officials, which is partly due to vaccine hesitancy. Japanese scientists have found that research related to vaccine side effects actually increases with vaccination uptake rates. This work could help public health officials better understand vaccine hesitancy.

COVID-19 vaccines have been remarkable in their rapid progression through development, manufacturing and market introduction. However, the rate of their adoption among healthcare consumers did not match this speed. In Japan, a large survey revealed that many people were worried about adverse effects and the effectiveness of vaccines. Even before the pandemic, Japan had performed poorly on vaccine confidence measures. Thus, being able to understand and measure people’s concerns could help shape public relations outreach efforts with the goal of increasing vaccine uptake.

A team of researchers from the Nara Institute of Science and Technology (NAIST) examined online searches of Yahoo! JAPAN to quantify the degree of discomfort associated with obtaining the COVID-19 vaccine. They worked with Yahoo! JAPAN will develop a “Vaccine Concern Index” (VCI) based on the aggregate search count of vaccine-related queries by prefecture for August and September 2021.

The VCI captured searches for terms that may indicate vaccine hesitancy (such as adverse reactions and side effects) across all vaccine-related searches (including searches for vaccination centers or appointments). The team found that the concern index tended to be lower in more populated areas, but higher among people between the ages of 20 and 40, particularly female users. “It could be related to the spread of false information online that the vaccine causes infertility,” says author Shoko Wakamiya, “and any concern among older people may be due to the fact that they have a familiarity limited with online search”.

The team found that the ICV was greater in prefectures with higher vaccination rates. This suggests that web searches for adverse reactions to vaccines may be a step taken by health consumers before ultimately choosing to get vaccinated, underscoring the importance of providing complete and accurate information online. Conversely, people who are highly hesitant about vaccination may not search for information online or search for information online less often.

“As part of a collectivist and Confucian culture, Japanese people often have an interdependent view of self,” says lead author Eiji Aramaki. “As a result, ‘greater good’ messages and guidelines may be more effective in Japan.” This work may pave the way for equally cost-effective examinations of societal attitudes toward COVID-19 vaccination in similar cultures, and ultimately improve online resources on these vaccines.

Vaccine hesitancy changes over time: Attitudes toward vaccines during the COVID-19 pandemic

More information:
Makoto Uehara et al, Measuring COVID-19 Vaccine Concerns Among Japanese Internet Users Through Search Queries, Scientific reports (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-022-18307-4

Provided by Nara Institute of Science and Technology

Quote: Measuring COVID-19 Vaccine Concerns Among Japanese Internet Users Through Search Queries (2022, September 27) Retrieved September 27, 2022, from -japanese-internet-users.html

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