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Semantic network analysis of vaccine sentiment in online social media

Kang, Gloria J., Ewing-Nelson, Sinclair R., Mackey, Lauren, Schlitt, James T., Marathe, Achla, Abbas, Kaja M., Swarup, Samarth
Vaccine 2017 v.35 no.29 pp. 3621-3638
Internet, attitudes and opinions, autism, children, disease outbreaks, parents, pharmaceutical industry, physicians, public health, risk, social networks, vaccination, vaccines, United States
To examine current vaccine sentiment on social media by constructing and analyzing semantic networks of vaccine information from highly shared websites of Twitter users in the United States; and to assist public health communication of vaccines.Vaccine hesitancy continues to contribute to suboptimal vaccination coverage in the United States, posing significant risk of disease outbreaks, yet remains poorly understood.We constructed semantic networks of vaccine information from internet articles shared by Twitter users in the United States. We analyzed resulting network topology, compared semantic differences, and identified the most salient concepts within networks expressing positive, negative, and neutral vaccine sentiment.The semantic network of positive vaccine sentiment demonstrated greater cohesiveness in discourse compared to the larger, less-connected network of negative vaccine sentiment. The positive sentiment network centered around parents and focused on communicating health risks and benefits, highlighting medical concepts such as measles, autism, HPV vaccine, vaccine-autism link, meningococcal disease, and MMR vaccine. In contrast, the negative network centered around children and focused on organizational bodies such as CDC, vaccine industry, doctors, mainstream media, pharmaceutical companies, and United States. The prevalence of negative vaccine sentiment was demonstrated through diverse messaging, framed around skepticism and distrust of government organizations that communicate scientific evidence supporting positive vaccine benefits.Semantic network analysis of vaccine sentiment in online social media can enhance understanding of the scope and variability of current attitudes and beliefs toward vaccines. Our study synthesizes quantitative and qualitative evidence from an interdisciplinary approach to better understand complex drivers of vaccine hesitancy for public health communication, to improve vaccine confidence and vaccination coverage in the United States.