Covid-19 and the global health threat of "vaccine hesitancy": Analysing #vaccine discourses in Brazilian Portuguese and in German on Twitter

Type Research Project

Duration Dec. 1, 2021 - March 31, 2022

  • Institute for Romance Languages IN (Details)


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  • Hofer-Bonfim, Bernadette (Details)

Abstract (English)

Since December 2019, the world has been facing the Covid-19 pandemic. Along with that, discussions regarding vaccination have revived anti-vaccine movements around the globe. Social media are crucial in facilitating the creation and the access to user-generated content published by (self-declared) health experts (Kata, 2012, p. 3779) and play a key role in the spread of disinformation and conspiracy narratives (Maci, 2019). Having that in mind, this study’s objective is to analyze and describe discursive patterns and main arguments of #vaccine Tweets posted on Twitter in Brazilian Portuguese and in German between December 2020 and February 2021 under the hashtags #vacina and #impfung. In terms of the analytical approach, this research relies on Social Media Critical Discourse Studies (SM-CDS), which is a “socially committed, problem-oriented, textually based, critical analysis of discourse” (KhosraviNik, 2018, p. 586). This study made use of a software-based corpus linguistic approach to identify recurrent themes and textual patterns of #vaccine Tweets, with a particular emphasis on discursive patterns of anti-vax campaigns. The linguistic and visual resources were examined with a focus on the Transitivity System proposed by Halliday and Mathiessen (2004, 2014), the Representational System of Kress, and Van Leeuven’s Grammar of Visual design (2020). First results have shown that the local socio-political context affects the main arguments of the anti-vaccine Tweets, which also reflect nationalist discourses. To address issues such as “vaccine hesitancy” and to start “a more relevant and less accusatory dialogue on the topic” (Kata, 2009, p.1715), it is necessary to understand the arguments and ideologies that support, and are spread through, anti-vax movements.