Malaysian Twitter users’ sentiments on COVID-19 vaccinations

Nor Eisya Shabila, Ismail and Ting, Su Hie (2022) Malaysian Twitter users’ sentiments on COVID-19 vaccinations. In: 2022 Spring Conference of the Joongwon Linguistic Society of Korea (JWL), May 21, 2022 at Cheongju University, South Korea, 21 May 2022, Online.

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The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has caused extensive mortality and morbidity which can be minimised through vaccination. However, there are reservations in vaccine uptake ranging from hesitancy to outright rejection. Much of these negative reactions to COVID-19 vaccination appears in social media, and influence people who are undecided against vaccination. The social media messages are a source of naturally occurring interactions which can be analysed to reveal emotions, feelings, and views on pro- and anti-vaccination sentiments. The study examined Malaysian Twitter users’ sentiments on COVID-19 vaccination during the different phases of the disease spread and control. The tweets on COVID-19 vaccination were collected from January 1 until December 31, 2021 covering four phases of the disease spread and control, namely, (1) before availability of vaccination, (2) arrival of first vaccine in Malaysia, (3) vaccination of teenagers, and (4) implementation of booster dose. The search keywords were Coronavirus, COVID19, vaccine(s), vaccination(s), vaccinate(d), vaccination drive, immunisation, and the names of the vaccines. The geo-tagged Twitter messages of Malaysian users were extracted using TweetDeck (an app connecting to Twitter API). The tweets were analysed using Martin and White’s (2005) Appraisal Theory, which focused on three emotional reactions: Attitude, Graduation, and Engagement. Altogether 20 tweets (five tweets per phase) were analysed. The results showed the use of the three appraisal resources in the tweets on COVID-19 vaccination: Graduation (38.9%), Engagement (36.9%), and Attitude (24.2%). There were changes in the use of appraisal resources during the four phases of disease spread and control. Phase 1 refers to the phase when the vaccination was still not available in Malaysia (1 January 2021 – 23 February 2021). The dominant appraisal categories were “Graduation” (16 occurrences), followed by “Engagement” (10 occurrences), and “Attitude” (9 occurrences¬). Their strong attitudinal assessments towards COVID-19, whether for or against, is mostly towards sharpening of focus and increased quantification-force. They criticised the government on the slow arrival of the vaccines and the unclear vaccination rollout plan. For example, the sharpening of focus can be seen in the use of the adjective “real” in “a real vaccination rollout plan”, and the force of their ideas is strengthened using the word “all” in this example, “using vaccines provide 93.4% protection against death from covid - average among all vaccines”. The main engagement category was entertaining probabilities (“If don’t want vaccine … if feel not safe, then don’t take”). The main attitude category was positive appreciation reflected in expressions such as “tried and tested one” when they talked about the Pfizer vaccine. Phase 2 (24 February 2021 – 22 September 2021) refers to the period from the arrival of the vaccines to the implementation of the immunisation programme for adults. The most dominant appraisal category was “Engagement” (14 occurrences), followed by “Graduation” (11 occurrences), and the least was “Attitude” (8 occurrences). Similar to Phase 1, the main “Engagement” category was entertaining probabilities when Twitter users expressed their views such as questioning the benefit of being vaccinated when new variants are emerging. However, disclaiming is equally frequent whereby Malaysian Twitter users narrowed down possibilities based on what they know (e.g., “I don’t think vaccine is the cause of death”). These results show that there is engagement on the topic of COVID-19 vaccination from both pro- and anti-vaccination viewpoints. As for “Attitude”, again the dominant aspect is positive-appreciation. This is when experts and educators in health-related field started to spread scientifically-based information to build confidence among Malaysians to be vaccinated in the face of news about empty vaccine syringes and low vaccine efficacy. Phase 3 (23 September 2021 – 8 October 2021) is when the Malaysian government started to vaccinate teenagers aged 12 to 17 and this coincides with the widespread transmission of the dangerous Delta variant. There was an increase in “Attitude” appraisals (12 occurrences), almost matching those of “Graduation” and “Engagement” (13 and 15 occurrences respectively). Therefore, the focus of the results here is on the “Attitude” appraisals. Much of the Twitter messages were parents complaining about the unsatisfactory procedures and venue for the vaccination of teenagers. One Twitter user said that students who had pfizer shots could already dine in, earlier than her, and she expressed her negative affect or jealousy (“benda tu mcm pedih”, meaning “it’s like painful”). Although the focus was on vaccinating teenagers, the vaccination of adults continued. During this time, some Twitter users also talked about the admirable willingness of rural folks to be vaccinated. One Twitter user was proud of her parents who were among the first to be vaccinated. Affect (emotional responses) and appreciation (construing value of things) were the predominant types of attitudes rather than judgement. Finally, Phase 4 (9 October 2021 – 31 December 2021) represents the administration of the third (booster) dose. In Phase 4, “Attitude” receded in prominence (7 occurrences), and most of the tweets had “Graduation” (15 occurrences) and “Engagement” (16 occurrences). During this time, the government announced that 90% of the adult population had been vaccinated, and the immunity was sufficient for lifting of interstate and international travel for vaccinated citizens. Malaysian citizens were elated to be able to visit their family living in their hometown. There was also talk about the side-effects and duration between doses. For the “Engagement” category, there was a balance between proclaiming evidence (to close a dialogue) and entertaining other possible truths and uncertainties. This shows that allowance of space for negotiating meaning. However, there were also strong assertions of opinions in tweets, where negation is used to disclaim (“It is not”) and facts are used to proclaim that vaccination can prevent people from COVID-19 infection: “It is so not, as someone who was vaccinated and got covid and had close contact with 18 people who were also vaccinated, none of whom got infected”. In this tweet itself, grading of the feelings can be seen in the term “close contact” to sharpen the focus but it is not scalable or quantifiable like the word “none”. The study indicated that dominant positive attitudes towards COVID-19 vaccination among Malaysian Twitter users, showing high acceptance. They are specific and assertive about their views COVID-19 vaccination, manifested in the use of graduation resources with a sharpening focus and intensification. However, they were also reasonable in their deliberations on the vaccine itself and the vaccination programme, seen in the dominant engagement resources used, which is entertaining alternative viewpoints. It is evident that the Twitter users made less personal expressions of attitude and brought in facts into their conversations, indicative of an inclination towards objectivity in their interpersonal meaning making. Keywords: COVID-19, Vaccination, Sentiments, Malaysian Twitter Users, Appraisal Theory. References Martin, J. R., & White, P. R. R. (2005). The language of evaluation: Appraisal in English. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Item Type: Proceeding (Paper)
Additional Information: COVID-19
Uncontrolled Keywords: COVID-19, Vaccination, Sentiments, Malaysian Twitter Users, Appraisal Theory.
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Divisions: Academic Faculties, Institutes and Centres > Faculty of Education, Language and Communication
Depositing User: Hie
Date Deposited: 06 Dec 2022 03:01
Last Modified: 11 Oct 2023 01:57

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