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Evolution of the public opinion on COVID-19 vaccination in Japan: Large-scale Twitter data analysis

Release:Dec 23, 2022 Update:Dec 23, 2022
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Professor Ryota Kobayashi of the Department of Complexity Science and Engineering in the Graduate School of Frontier Sciences led the research project.

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Background:
Vaccines are promising tools to control the spread of COVID-19. An effective vaccination campaign requires government policies and community engagement, sharing experiences for social support, and voicing concerns about vaccine safety and efficiency. The increasing use of online social platforms allows us to trace large-scale communication and infer public opinion in real time.

Objective:
This study aimed to identify the main themes in COVID-19 vaccine-related discussions on Twitter in Japan and track how the popularity of the tweeted themes evolved during the vaccination campaign. Furthermore, we aimed to understand the impact of critical social events on the popularity of the themes.

Methods:
We collected more than 100 million vaccine-related tweets written in Japanese and posted by 8 million users (approximately 6.4% of the Japanese population) from January 1 to October 31, 2021. We used Latent Dirichlet Allocation to perform automated topic modeling of tweet text during the vaccination campaign. In addition, we performed an interrupted time series regression analysis to evaluate the impact of 4 critical social events on public opinion.

Results:
We identified 15 topics grouped into the following 4 themes: (1) personal issue, (2) breaking news, (3) politics, and (4) conspiracy and humor. The evolution of the popularity of themes revealed a shift in public opinion, with initial sharing of attention over personal issues (individual aspect), collecting information from news (knowledge acquisition), and government criticism to focusing on personal issues. Our analysis showed that the Tokyo Olympic Games affected public opinion more than other critical events but not the course of vaccination. Public opinion about politics was significantly affected by various social events, positively shifting attention in the early stages of the vaccination campaign and negatively shifting attention later.

Conclusions:
This study showed a striking shift in public interest in Japan, with users splitting their attention over various themes early in the vaccination campaign and then focusing only on personal issues, as trust in vaccines and policies increased. An interrupted time series regression analysis showed that the vaccination rollout to the general population (under 65 years) increased the popularity of tweets about practical advice and personal vaccination experience, and the Tokyo Olympic Games disrupted public opinion but not the course of the vaccination campaign. The methodology developed here allowed us to monitor the evolution of public opinion and evaluate the impact of social events on public opinion, using large-scale Twitter data.

J Med Internet Res 2022;24(12):e41928

Article

Publication: Journal of Medical Internet Research

Title: "Evolution of the public opinion on COVID-19 vaccination in Japan: Large-scale Twitter data analysis"

Authors: Ryota Kobayashi*, Yuka Takedomi, Yuri Nakayama, Towa Suda, Takeaki Uno, Takako Hashimoto, Masashi Toyoda, Naoki Yoshinaga, Masaru Kitsuregawa, Luis E C Rocha.

DOI: 10.2196/41928

URL: https://www.jmir.org/2022/12/e41928/

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