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 16-29 August 2021.
Source: Own elaboration, Center for Propaganda and Disinformation Analysis
The studied news sites published a total of 85 news on vaccines. It is necessary to subtract 11 results from this number, as they were wrongly included by the monitoring software mainly for two reasons: either due to the phrase "Sputnik" within the content, which in this context was the name of the Russian news agency and not a formulation, or there were included links to other articles with names of the vaccines in their titles. More on this in the Methodology section.
The largest number of publications on vaccines appeared on interia.pl (28 news), followed by wp.pl (18), wpolityce.pl (16), and the least on onet.pl (13) and gazeta.pl (10). This is a significant decrease in the number of publications compared to the first two studied weeks (10-23 May 2021), when 385 articles were published, which is four times as much. This trend may be due to the fact that the majority of the Polish population was already vaccinated and the pace of mass vaccination slowed down. Therefore, there was no coverage to report on or such a large demand for keeping up to date with, for example, new decisions of the Ministry of Health regarding the National Vaccination Program, and the situation concerning the supply of new doses. This was also the end of the holiday season, so the readers were less interested in reading about the restrictions in foreign countries, the functioning of the COVID certificate or other topics that had received much more attention back in the spring.
The vaccines on which information was most frequently provided were: Pfizer (53 mentions), Moderna (39), AstraZeneca (32) and Johnson & Johnson (24). Thus, as before, the formulations that have been offered in Poland and authorized by the European Union, and have generally enjoyed a favorable scientific opinion around the world, focused the most attention. On the other hand, the vaccines from China (Sinopharm - 8 mentions, Sinovac - 6, CanSino - 1) and Russia (Sputnik - 4 messages) were mentioned only in the context of individual articles about an pandemic situation in other countries or travel destinations. There was also little interest paid to new formulations such as the Indian Covaxin (3) or the American Novavax (1). The Chinese Convidecia and Vero Cell, and the Kazakh QazVac were not mentioned in any of the news.
The news about Moderna preceded the number of those regarding AstraZeneca, because several outlets had published reports about contaminated doses and the withdrawal of vaccine batches from Japan, as well as other news – i.e. proving that Moderna is more effective among the elderly than Pfizer or efforts to develop an HIV vaccine.
Most of the news was related to international affairs (49 mentions), mainly due to new scientific discoveries from foreign research centers, recommendations of the scientists (i.e. WHO's comment on provision of a third dose of the vaccine) or foreign governments’ decisions on vaccines. There were 25 news covering domestic matters in total. This situation may have been caused by the lack of any ground-breaking, publicity-worthy events related to vaccinations in Poland.
Just like in May 10-23 period, in this case the news was also presented in an objective manner and informative regardless of the source. For this reason, no articles that would explicitly favor vaccines have been identified – although one could argue that stories about of the waste of unused doses may have indirectly served as an incentive to sign up for the vaccination. Two news were tagged with the "anti_vaccination" tag, which referred to an incident in Germany, where an anti-vaccine nurse had been deliberately injecting the patients with saline instead of the correct formulation. It is likely that, despite the neutrality of the content, information such as the one on Israel - previously cited as a prime example of how COVID-19 should be fought compared to other countries and now struggling with an increasing number of cases and introducing a third dose – may have caused skepticism among the readers.
Source: Own elaboration, Center for Propaganda and Disinformation Analysis
The most frequently discussed topics were the third vaccine dose (20 mentions) and the delta variant of the coronavirus (17). Both were closely related to each other, as the speculations about allowing to receive booster shots in the light of delta’s high transmission rate and the resurgence of Covid cases in Poland were starting to gain momentum. Especially since countries like Israel had already opted for this option. On the other hand, there was little interest in such topics as, for example, the Covid certificates (it can be assumed that the EU Covid Certificate application has been working perfectly and has not involved any controversies worth its own article on the website), restrictions (the existing ones have been still in force in Poland and no major changes are expected) or post-vaccine complications (there are many indications that the panic caused by the disseminated fake news has ceased and the topic itself has been exhausted).
The dominant threads were the following:
- Talks on introducing an option to receive a third dose of COVID-19 vaccine in Poland;
- N. Pacholczyk, Trzecia dawka szczepionki przeciwko COVID-19. Michał Dworczyk: Trwa dyskusja, 16.08.2021.
- Trzecia dawka szczepionki przeciwko COVID-19. Coraz powszechniejsza, ale czy konieczna? Jest stanowisko WHO i naukowców, wPolityce.pl, 21.08.2021.
- Adam Niedzielski: Rada Medyczna akceptuje dopuszczenie trzeciej dawki szczepienia, Interia Wydarzenia, 27.08.2021.
- Granting Pfizer the full authorization by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA);
- USA zatwierdziły całkiem szczepionkę Pfizera, Onet Wiadomości, 23.08.2021.
- USA: Szczepionka Pfizer/BioNTech z pełną autoryzacją FDA, Interia Wydarzenia, 23.08.2021.
- Foreign substances in Moderna vaccine shots in Japan, information on deaths and suspension of vaccination with this formulation;
- Japonia: Władze Okinawy zawiesiły stosowanie szczepionki Moderny, Interia Wydarzenia, 29.08.2021.
- Około 1,6 mln dawek szczepionek na koronawirusa zostały wycofane z japońskiego rynku, Onet Wiadomości, 26.08.2021.
- Development of the new ZyCoV-D vaccine by the Indian company Zydus Cadilla, the first DNA vaccine;
- Nowa szczepionka przeciw COVID-19 zatwierdzona. To pierwsza szczepionka DNA na świecie, Onet Wiadomości, 23.08.2021.
- Indie: Zatwierdzono pierwszą na świecie szczepionkę DNA przeciw COVID-19, Interia Wydarzenia, 23.08.2021.
The researched websites focused mainly on the regular provision of the statistics on the number of infections, deaths and vaccinated people in Poland.
Author: Raffaella Margaryan
Editorial supervision: Marta Kowalska
Graphic layout: Katarzyna Rogala
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