Agency in urgency and uncertainty: Vaccines and vaccination in European media discourses

Aleksandra Wagner, Paulina Polak, Tadeusz Józef Rudek, Maria Świątkiewicz-Mośny, Alistair Anderson, Marlies Bockstal, Luigi Gariglio, Jaroslava Hasmanová Marhánková, Ana Patrícia Hilário, Pru Hobson-West, Juliana Iorio, Aappo Kuusipalo, Dino Numerato, Alice Scavarda, Pedro Alcântara da Silva, Eva Soares Moura, Pia Vuolanto

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Abstract

Although Covid-19 was not the first pandemic, it was unique in the scale and intensity with which societies responded. Countries reacted differently to the threat posed by the new virus. The public health crisis affected European societies in many ways. It also influenced the way the media portrayed vaccines and discussed factors related to vaccine hesitancy. Europeans differed in their risk perceptions, attitudes towards vaccines and vaccine uptake. In European countries, Covid-19-related discourses were at the centre of media attention for many months. This paper reports on a media analysis which revealed significant differences as well as some similarities in the media debates in different countries. The study focused on seven European countries and considered two dimensions of comparison: between the pre-Covid period and the beginning of the Covid pandemic period, and between countries. The rich methodological approach, including linguistics, semantic field analysis and discourse analysis of mainstream news media, allowed the authors to explore the set of meanings related to vaccination that might influence actors' agency. This approach led the authors to redefine vaccine hesitancy in terms of characteristics of the “society in the situation” rather than the psychological profile of individuals. We argue that vaccine hesitancy can be understood in terms of agency and temporality. This dilemma of choice that transforms the present into an irreversible past and must be taken in relation to an uncertain future, is particularly acute under the pressure of urgency and when someone's health is at stake. As such, it is linked to how vaccine meaning is co-produced within public discourses.

Original languageEnglish
Article number116725
JournalSOCIAL SCIENCE AND MEDICINE
Volume346
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2024
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 3

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science

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