COVID-19 Vaccines: Polish information space using the example of articles published by Onet.pl, Wp.pl, Interia.pl, Wpolityce.pl, Gazeta.pl in the period between 10 May and 23 May 2021.
Below are presented the partial results of the monitoring conducted by the Center for Propaganda and Disinformation Analysis as a 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” project and implemented during the period of 10 May – 29 August 2021.
Source: Own elaboration, Center for Propaganda and Disinformation Analysis
- Total number of published and analysed news: 357
- In the context of the monitoring conducted in the period of 10 May – 4 July 2021, the 10-23 May period saw the highest number of information regarding the COVID-19 vaccines. They accounted for about 38% of all the news from the above-mentioned time frame. This was most likely due to many significant events in terms of preventing the spread of COVID-19 pandemic. These include, among others, opening of the vaccine registration of persons younger than 18, discussions on the loosening of restrictions or cases of deaths and side effects after vaccinations.
- The largest group of mentions concerned Pfizer (269), AstraZeneca (224), Moderna (138) and Johnson&Johnson (105) vaccines. Significantly less attention was paid to Sputnik (18), Novavax (9) and Sinopharm (4) formulations. The Chinese vaccines, CanSino and Sinovac, and German CureVac were mentioned in the Polish media only once.
There is a noticeable trend in which the vaccines authorized in Poland and the European Union (Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson) definitely dominated in Polish news regarding vaccinations. The remaining formulations appeared only in the case of reporting the situation in countries that use them or they were about to enter the Western market very soon (Novavax, CureVac). It is logical that those formulations that were not available for Polish readers were given less attention. On the other hand, information about Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines was constantly coming in – especially on booster shots, side effects and the latest findings.
- None of the researched websites devoted any articles on Convidecia, Covaxin Covivac or Vero Cell from China, the Russian EpiVacCorona or the Kazakh QazVac. As a result, the countries that were most often mentioned were the United States (299), the United Kingdom (224) and Russia (17), which are the vaccine-producing countries of the aforementioned formulations. Similarly to the above point, for a Polish reader the regulations related to these vaccines or their effectiveness are not that important, because they are not available in Poland or Europe. For this reason, news websites do not focus on this rather distant topic.
Source: Own elaboration, Center for Propaganda and Disinformation Analysis
- Polish media more often focused on reporting events from the country (202 articles) than from abroad (155 articles). As for individual domains, most of the news on onet.pl and interia.pl concerned international affairs (on average by 29% more), while the opposite situation was happening on wp.pl, wpolityce.pl and gazeta.pl – there was on average 57% more news on the situation in Poland.
- In the given time period there were 31 news appearing that covered the anti-vaccine movement’s activities and 14 news that were promoting the vaccination program. On onet.pl, wp.pl and interia.pl the content on anti-vaccine movement was the one exceeding, while on wpolityce.pl and gazeta.pl – the latter.
Majority of the publications in the analysed news websites presents neutral and descriptive content. The news was devoid of either positive or negative stance towards the monitored topic of vaccines. There was also no tendency towards favoring a certain vaccine or its country of origin at the expense of others in cases other than comparing research results regarding the effectiveness of above-mentioned formulations.
- The topics that were most often discussed in the studied media were the following: post-vaccine side effects (48 news), restrictions (23), covid certificates / passports and actions aimed at separating sanitary restrictions between those vaccinated and unvaccinated resulting from them (11 publications each). The monitored period was a pre-holiday season, and consequently the news largely concerned travel regulations and reports on the gradual easing of sanitary restrictions.
- The articles on COVID-19 vaccines focused mainly on issues related to the process of delivery of new doses to Poland, dates of their distribution announced by the Ministry of Health and delays (Opóźnione szczepienia. Michał Dworczyk przeprasza, Interia Wydarzenia, 17.05.2021). At that time there were speculations about whether the formulations would be sufficient for all those willing to get vaccinated, since last May the vaccination program sped up due to the launch of registration for adults of all the age groups.
- Szczepienia przeciwko COVID-19. Duża dostawa preparatu Pfizer/BioNTech, Interia Wydarzenia, 10.05.2021.
- Dania jednak nie sprzeda nam preparatów Johnson&Johnson. Rzecznik rządu: Ja się nie dziwię, bo ta szczepionka jest skuteczna, wPolityce.pl, 11.05.2021.
- Problemy ze szczepieniem preparatem Johnson & Johnson. Michał Dworczyk przeprasza, Gazeta.pl, 17.05.2021.
- Appearing doubts and disputes over AstraZeneca vaccines and concerns about Polish people and beyond due to the possible side-effects (Francuzi nie chcą się szczepić AstraZenecą. Masowo odwołują wizyty, Interia Wydarzenia, 13.05.2021). Gradual suspension and discontinuation of deliveries of AstraZeneca and/or Johnson & Johnson vaccines abroad due to growing public distrust in the light of increasingly reported cases of complications and deaths (low platelet count, thrombosis). AstraZeneca is one of four vaccines widely available formulations in Poland and approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), so this information was directly relevant and important for Polish readers.
- Gradual suspension and discontinuation of deliveries of AstraZeneca and/or Johnson & Johnson vaccines in: Norway (K. Bogdańska, Szczepienie na COVID. Norwegia rezygnuje z dwóch preparatów, WP Wiadomości, 13.05.2021), Slovakia (47-latka zmarła po szczepieniu. Słowacja wstrzymuje podawanie AstraZeneki, Interia Wydarzenia, 11.05.2021), Canada (Kanada, prowincja po prowincji, rezygnuje z tej szczepionki, Interia Wydarzenia, 12.05.2021), Austria (P. Białczyk, Szczepienia. Austria rezygnuje z AstraZeneki, WP Wiadomości, 18.05.2021) and Brazil (W Brazylii zakazują szczepień ciężarnych AstraZeneką, Onet Wiadomości, 11.05.2021).
- Discussions on the possible shortening of the gap between the first and second dose of the Pfizer, AstraZeneca or Moderna vaccine in Poland; willingness of the Ministry of Health to accelerate the implementation of the National Vaccination Program due to the greater availability of vaccines. This was an important information for those vaccinated with the first dose or planning the vaccination, because thanks to this change they could have been sent for earlier appointments and thus avoid wasting doses.
- Information on daily vaccination records or signing up for vaccinations in Poland. Monitoring the progress in combating the epidemic, more likely for readers to follow the example of others.
- Mentions of possible easing of the restrictions in Poland
- Information about expanding the Pfizer immunization program by including 16-18 year olds and the related problem of lack of parents’ permission – despite their children’s interest – to get vaccinated (M. Litorowicz, Co, jeśli rodzic nie wyraża zgody na szczepienie? "Sąd to ostateczność. Pomóc może pediatra", Gazeta.pl, 17.05.2021).
- Incidents (both in Poland and abroad) involving accidental vaccination of someone with an excessive dose (Lekarka z Włoch dostała sześć dawek szczepionki Pfizera. Skierowano ją na obserwację, Onet, 10.05.2021) or injection with a combination of two different formulations (Pierwsza dawka z AstraZeneki, druga z Pfizera. Pomyłka czy przyszłość szczepień przeciwko COVID-19?, Onet Wiadomości, 10.05.2021).
- Criticism of the anti-vaccine tendencies of the Catholic Church in connection to the statements made by the Episcopate of Poland in May 2021 (T. Molga, Koronawirus nie daje za wygraną. A w Polsce pojawił się niebezpieczny trend. "Krytyka szczepionek przez Kościół", WP Wiadomości, 11.05.2021). The Episcopate alleged that the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines raise "moral doubts" because their production supposedly uses biological material obtained from aborted fetuses. Due to its polarizing nature, this is a topic that is certainly popular and gathers a large number of readers (and thus comments under the post and link to it, disseminated all over social media). Not just because of the discussions on vaccines themselves, but also this news is in some way a part of the nationwide, long-term ideological debate on the issue of abortion.
- First indications of the delta variant of coronavirus and publication of the research results regarding the effectiveness of vaccines against the mutation of the virus (M. Drzażdżewski, Europejska Agencja Leków o skuteczności szczepionek przeciw wariantowi indyjskiemu. Optymistyczne wyniki, WP Wiadomości, 13.05.2021). In the light of the pandemic crisis in India, approach of the coronavirus mutation to Poland and the ongoing process of immunization of societies around the world through vaccination, information about this variant was one of the main topics of articles in Poland, especially in the context of the effectiveness the vaccines available in the country.
- Concerns of a large part of Polish people who remain skeptical about vaccinations (I. Nestioruk, Jedna trzecia Polaków nie chce się szczepić. Ekspert: Jestem zakłopotany i zasmucony, Gazeta.pl, 11.05.2021) or do not plan to receive a second dose (K. Mianecka, Pacjenci nie stawiają się na drugą dawkę szczepionki. Są dane. "Przestajemy bać się koronawirusa", Gazeta.pl, 20.05.2021).
- Campaigns to promote the vaccines, for example in the form of “vaccine buses” in front of Polish churches (T. Molga, Lekarze biorą sprawy w swoje ręce. Szczepionkobusy staną przed kościołami, WP Wiadomości, 13.05.2021). This type of news was intended to encourage vaccinations, which had become even more accessible thanks to the dissemination of the immunization program.
- Polish media remain immune to disinformation and anti-vaccine propaganda, and allow experts to share their knowledge and recommendations, regardless of their place on the political spectrum. No cases of journalists or publicists giving the floor to skeptics in order promote their views have been identified. The anti-vaccine content was mainly for information purposes only, for example: they informed about the so-called “Disinformation Dozen” – the group behind the dissemination of anti-vaccine propaganda on social media (P. Korzeniowski, 12 influencerów stoi za 65 proc. fake newsów o szczepionkach przeciw COVID-19, Onet, 17.05.2021), shared conspiracy theories in the United States, as a result of which anti-vaccinees would wear masks to protect themselves from vaccinated people (D. Szwajcer (oprac.), Antymaseczkowcy gotowi założyć maski. Ale tylko po to, by chronić się przed zaszczepionymi, Onet, 13.05.2021) or reported a conflict between people from Polish show business about vaccines (Maciej Stuhr odpowiada Violi Kołakowskiej: wolałbym iść na wódkę z Sasinem, niż zaufać Twoim poglądom, Onet, 13.05.2021).
- It is worth noting that Polish news portals, by disseminating information about the cases of mistakenly vaccinating the patients with more than the recommended amount of dose (M. Litorowicz, Włochy. 23-letniej studentce podano całą fiolkę szczepionki Pfizera. "Pomyliliśmy się", Gazeta.pl, 10.05.2021), could have indirectly discouraged recipients from vaccination.
- On the other hand, the local media also mentioned cases of successes in the fight against the coronavirus, e.g. Israel, where a drop in the percentage of infections was recorded for the first time in a year, or about the vaccinated politicians (P. Kubiak, Michał Dworczyk zaszczepiony. Wiemy, jaki preparat dostał, WP Wiadomości, 17.05.2021).
Author: Raffaella Margaryan
Editorial supervision: Marta Kowalska
Graphic layout: Katarzyna Rogala
READ THE FULL REPORT: The article 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”, which we are about to publish soon.
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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.