Covid certificates, the Coronavirus Delta variant, or vaccine side-effects? Which of these topics dominated the Polish online media?

Centrum Analiz Propagandy i Dezinformacji
Author: Centrum Analiz Propagandy i DezinformacjiEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Since the turn of 2019 and 2020, the problem of the COVID-19 epidemic has been widely commented on by the public. New publications on various aspects related to the coronavirus are constantly appearing in the information space. For the purposes of the report: ‘COVID-19 vaccines in Polish- and Russian-language online media outlets: specifics and correlation between them in Polish and Russian information spaces’, selected online media were monitored to examine the exact subject matter of the published articles.

Source: Own elaboration, Center for Propaganda and Disinformation Analysis

What issue dominated cyberspace in Poland?

- Complications related to vaccines were the most popular topic during the period under review (124 mentions in total). The vaccine safety debate prevailed in May, due to reports of deaths of the vaccinated or overdose injections.

- In June, public attention focused on the Delta variant of the coronavirus (92), w which appeared in Poland.

- Other widely discussed topics were: restrictions, and especially their easing, announced by the Polish Ministry of Health before the start of the summer holidays.

- In the surveyed online media there were also articles about the so-called covid passports, the functioning of the EU COVID Certificate was also discussed (37).

- The conducted monitoring also showed that in the analyzed period, there were texts on conspiracy theories disseminated by anti-vaccination movements in Poland and around the world (37).

 

Source: Own elaboration, Center for Propaganda and Disinformation Analysis

READ THE FULL REPORT: This article is part of the “ COVID-19 vaccines in Polish- and Russian-language online media outlets: specifics and correlation between them in Polish and Russian information spaces” report that we will publish shortly.

Methodology

The Center for Propaganda and Disinformation Analysis on 10.05-29.08.2021 monitored the Polish and Russian information space in the context of information on vaccines against COVID-19. The study was conducted using the Pulsar online information monitoring and analysis platform. For the sake of this analysis, 5 online mainstream media from Poland and Russia were selected. Polish media selection was based on the 2020 ranking of the most opinion-forming Internet portals, along with 5 additional information portals, bypassing the industry ones: onet.pl, wp.pl, interia.pl, wpolityce.pl and gazeta.pl. Russian media was selected on the basis of the 2020 ranking of the most opinion-forming Internet portals with nationwide coverage, available in the Pulsar media database: Rbc.ru, Gazeta.ru, Lenta.ru, Kp.ru and Fontanka.ru.

An optimized list of the following keywords representing the names of individual vaccines or their producers was used for monitoring purposes.

For the Polish information space:

AstraZeneca OR Vaxzevria OR "Astra Zeneca" OR CanSino OR Convidecia OR Ad5-nCoV OR Covaxin OR BBV152 OR "Bharat Biotech" OR CureVac OR CVnCoV OR Johnson & Johnson OR "Johnson & Johnson" OR J&J OR Jansen OR Janssen OR Moderna OR mRNA-1273 Novavax OR NVX-CoV2373 OR Pfizer OR BioNTech OR BioNTech-Pfizer OR Pfizer-BioNTech OR BNT162 OR Sputnik OR Sinovac OR CoronaVac OR Sinopharm OR Vero OR EpiVacCorona OR CoviVac OR QazVac OR QazCovid-in

For the Russian information space: 

AstraZeneca OR Vaxzevria OR "Astra Zeneca" OR CanSino OR CanSino-Biologics OR Convidecia OR Ad5-nCoV OR Covaxin OR BBV152 OR "Bharat Biotech" OR CureVac OR CVnCoV OR Johnson & Johnson OR "Johnson & Johnson" OR J&J OR Jansen OR Janssen OR Moderna mRNA-1273 OR Novavax OR NVX-CoV2373 OR Pfizer OR BioNTech OR BioNTech-Pfizer OR Pfizer-BioNTech OR BNT162 OR Sputnik OR Sinovac OR CoronaVac OR Sinopharm OR Vero OR EpiVacCorona OR CoviVac OR QazVac OR QazCанкеке OR енсекеке OR енсекекаЗ Конвиденция OR OR "Джонсон и Джонсон" OR "Модерна" Пфайзер OR OR OR Синофарм "клетки Веро" Синовак OR OR OR Коронавак "Спутник V" OR "Спутник Лайт" OR ЭпиВакКорона КовиВак OR OR OR КазВак КазКовид-ин

In both cases, the same list of vaccines and their producers were used. The differences in the spelling are solely due to the peculiarities of both information spaces, the prevalence of used vaccine names and, in case of the Russian information space, the use of English and Russian equivalents of the names of vaccines and their producers as well.

For further analysis, both quantitative and qualitative, only the news containing at least one name of the vaccine or the producer were selected. Publications in which the name of the vaccine or the producer were included in sections of the website other than the content of the article itself (e.g. recommended links to other articles) were identified and rejected as false positives. The  "Sputnik" keyword turned out to be a methodological challenge both in the Polish and Russian information space, because due to its prevalence in contexts other than the name of the vaccine, this lead to relatively many false positive results. Therefore, it was required to conduct the verification of the results obtained from the Pulsar platform automatically as well as manually, in order to eliminate any news irrelevant to the topic of COVID-19 vaccines.

Each article was then categorized according to the name of the vaccine or a producer that had appeared in the publication: AstraZeneca, CanSino, Convidecia, Covaxin, CoviVac, CureVac, EpiVacCorona, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, Novavax, Pfizer, QazVac, Sinopharm, Sinovac, Sputnik V and Vero Cell. Eeach article could have been assigned to more than one category. In case of the Russian information space, the "Sputnik" category had been split into "Sputnik V" and "Sputnik Light" subcategories. This is due to the prevalence of information about both Russian vaccines in the local media, which did not apply to the Polish media.

Similarly, all articles were assigned to the “country of origin of each vaccine producer” category. For the purposes of this analysis, a simplified assignment of vaccines and their producers to the producer's country was adopted: AstraZeneca - Great Britain, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, Pfizer and Novavax - USA, CureVac - Germany, CoviVac, EpiVacCorona, Sputnik V and Sputnik Light - Russia, QazVac - Kazakhstan, CanSino, Convidecia, Sinopharm, Sinovac and Vero Cell - China, Covaxin - India.

The other analysis categories are the following:

- an attitude towards vaccines and vaccination against COVID-19 (pro-vaccine news in case of p vaccination vaccine promotion, anti-vaccine ones in case of vaccination discouragement and content with neutral stance towards vaccines);

- a reference to the situation in Poland / Russia or abroad in the context of COVID-19 vaccines;

- a qualitative analysis regarding the content of monitored publications.

The publication is part of the report: ‘COVID-19 vaccines in Polish- and Russian-language online media outlets: specifics and correlation between them in Polish and Russian information spaces’.  This report has been prepared with support from IRI's Beacon Project. The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of IRI.