Vaccine hesitancy – one of the World Health Organisation’s top 10 global health challenges even prior to the Covid-19 pandemic – can be a consequence of views and attitudes that are formed and exchanged through discourse, for example by reading the news, listening to politicians and interacting on social media. A new project, Questioning Vaccination Discourse (Quo VaDis), will use the computer-aided methods of Corpus Linguistics to study systematically the ways in which vaccinations are discussed, both currently and historically, in the UK press, UK parliamentary debates, and social media (Twitter, reddit and Mumsnet). The goal is to arrive at a better understanding of pro- and anti-vaccination views, as well as undecided views, and to use the findings to inform future public health campaigns about vaccinations.

The project is based in the ESRC Centre for Corpus Approaches to Social Science at Lancaster University (part of the Department of Linguistics and English Language), which was awarded a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education in 2015. An interdisciplinary project team from Lancaster University, Leeds University and University College London will work in interaction with three main project partners: Public Health England, the Department of Health and Social Care and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport.

The research is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, part of UK Research and Innovation.

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Twitter: @vaccine_project