CARMA International, the world’s longest established media intelligence provider, today released its latest investigative report exploring ‘Trust in COVID-19 Vaccines’ and the impact of media on public opinion and trust in vaccines. The data presents a clear correlation between how politicians handled statements about highly scientific and complex issues and vaccine hesitancy.

In December it became clear political leaders, aided by mainstream media, would lead the charge to promote and encourage vaccine take up. The level of influence they wield created an opportunity to make a significant difference in the need to minimize vaccine hesitancy. While in the United States journalists were most likely to turn to pharmaceutical companies for comment, Government Officials were first choice in France & Germany.

Asia was the most prominent in using government spokespeople in its commentary, demonstrating high levels of public and media in Government officials in this region. Coverage in Saudi Arabia and the UAE has the most positive sentiment in media reporting quoting politicians.

Much of the misinformation in Europe centered around concerns pertaining to AstraZeneca and alleged fatal blood clots. CARMA’s research indicates that trust in the AstraZeneca vaccine decreased significantly from December to March, coinciding with a flurry of statements from European political leaders and public health officials, including French President Emmanuel Macron who labelled the vaccine as “quasi-ineffective in the over 65s”.

Over 40% of headlines used emotive language in both France and Germany, and over a quarter in the UK; with articles about AstraZeneca and Pfizer accounting for 70% of emotive headlines. The majority of these sensational headlines published in France.

And the impact on public behavior is clear, with commentary on potential side effects corresponding with increasing concerns from European populations about the vaccines. While French distrust towards AstraZeneca reached 61% in March, according to this YouGov survey, positive messaging and sense of national pride in Great Britain saw levels of distrust at just 9%. The report explains that emotive behavior from Governments across Europe, more negative in France versus positive sentiment in Great Britain, correlates to both trust and take-up of vaccines.

Google search data tells the same story. Even with UK searches for blood clots, thrombosis and deaths peaking in line with negative media coverage (in the same way it did in France and Germany), overall trust and vaccine take-up remained higher. The report demonstrates this is largely due to the disjunction between the approaches of Government Spokespeople.

Francis Ingham, Director General of the Public Relations and Communications Association (PRCA), commented:

“Gaps in COVID-19 vaccine take-up around the world are driven not just by drug supply and administrative capability, but by confidence. And confidence in turn is driven by the clarity, consistency, and certainty – or lack of all three – from Governments. In the months since vaccines were approved, we have seen the enormous impact of Government messages – the difference between inconsistent or negative messaging, those with agreed core messages, and the correlation with vaccine take-up highlighted in this report. In an era where all of us can be publishers and authors -and where ironically public scepticism has never been greater- the power of direct and authentic communication has never been greater.”

Richard Bagnall, Co-Managing Partner and CEO Europe & Americas, CARMA, who curated the report, added:

“This special CARMA report identifies how much the actions and communications of spokespeople and our leaders matter, and how getting it wrong can have significant consequences. The report demonstrates that misinformation does not exist only in the dark corners of the digital social sphere, reaffirming that our leaders and all those we look up to have a critical part to play. How governments and their leadership behave, how they communicate, and how the media reports has a significant on public perception and behaviour. It is clear that effective communication has never been more important – hard won trust that can take a long time to generate, but can be damaged and lost in moments.”

The report by CARMA combines expert media monitoring and analysis with search data and market research. It investigates each of the top manufacturers – Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, Sputnik V, Sinopharm and Sinovac – uncovering sentiment, leadership and trust by region. Throughout the report, CARMA examines how the mainstream media across 12 countries portrayed the adoption and roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines in the critical four-month period between December 2020 and April 2021. Covering North America, Europe and Asia, it looks to identify factors which may have contributed towards public trust and willingness to participate in the vaccine program.

CARMA is the world’s most experienced media intelligence service provider. Established in 1984, the company has grown today to work with over 3,500 brands and organizations across the world. CARMA helps its clients use media intelligence to navigate and understand the disrupted media landscape, operate strategically, and demonstrate success with industry-leading Media Monitoring and communications evaluation programs. CARMA blends expert technologies, powering real-time data insights, with a global team of experienced PR measurement consultants. Led by Co-Managing Partners – former FIBEP Chair Mazen Nahawi and current AMEC Chair Richard Bagnall – and with 450+ staff across five continents, CARMA’s unparalleled experience, expertise and client service makes it the first-choice media intelligence provider for any organization looking to understand the media and refine and prove the value of their public relations.

Media Contact:
Jack Richards, International Marketing Manager
T: +44 7979 643807