Almost two years ago, in June 2009, the World Health Organization declared the new strain of flu virus H1N1 as having reached pandemic levels. The virus spread worldwide and caused several thousands of deaths although, in August 2010, the WHO declared the pandemic over. This period was filled with doubts and uncertainty amongst the public – and healthcare professionals) – while the authorities (national and international) struggled to maintain a coherent way of communicating to these audiences regarding vaccination. Scepticism from the public and healthcare professionals exploded online at that time causing a major buzz that tended to be more and more negatively angled with regard to vaccines and vaccination.
At ZN, we are particularly interested in analysing and understanding how such a crisis impacted the way people perceive vaccination. In this case, the web and, more specifically, the analysis of online demand – represent a unique opportunity as it reflects global perception and thus can be considered as a barometer for the population’s focus.
The graph here represents the volume of online demand for certain keywords and combination of keywords (allocated into various subject groups) associated with vaccines from March 2009 to February 2010. What we see is that the main focus of searches is closely related to details about the disease in itself. Simply put, people looking for information about vaccines tend to associate it to a specific disease – using keywords like HPV vaccine or H1N1 vaccine, for example. Specific negative research was quite limited during this critical period of time (but still more important in terms of volume than before the crisis). In fact, users tend to have an open mindset when searching for information – interesting observations, when we know the amount of negative content those people found online.