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In Journal of medical Internet research ; h5-index 88.0

BACKGROUND : Within a few months, the COVID-19 pandemic has spread to many countries and has been a real challenge for health systems all around the world. This unprecedented crisis has led to a surge of online discussions about potential cures for the disease. Among them, vaccines have been at the heart of the debates, and have faced lack of confidence before marketing in France.

OBJECTIVE : This study aims to identify and investigate the opinion of French Twitter users on the announced vaccines against COVID-19 through sentiment analysis.

METHODS : This study was conducted in two phases. First, we filtered a collection of tweets related to COVID-19 available on twitter from February to August 2020 with a set of keywords associated with vaccine mistrust using word embeddings. Second, we performed sentiment analysis using deep learning to identify the characteristics of vaccine mistrust. The model was trained on a hand labeled subset of 4,548 tweets.

RESULTS : A set of 69 relevant keywords were identified as the semantic concept of the word "vaccin" (vaccine in French) and focus mainly on conspiracies, pharmaceutical companies, and alternative treatments. Those keywords enabled to extract nearly 350k tweets in French. The sentiment analysis model achieved a 0.75 accuracy. The model then predicted 16% of positive tweets, 41% of negative tweets and 43% of neutral tweets. This allowed to explore the semantic concepts of positive and negative tweets and to plot the trends of each sentiment. The main negative rhetoric identified from users' tweets was that vaccines are perceived as having a political purpose, and that COVID-19 is a commercial argument for the pharmaceutical companies.

CONCLUSIONS : Twitter might be a useful tool to investigate the arguments of vaccine mistrust as it unveils a political criticism contrasting with the usual concerns on adverse drug reactions. As the opposition rhetoric is more consistent and more widely spread than the positive rhetoric, we believe that this research provides effective tools to help health authorities better characterize the risk of vaccine mistrust.

Dupuy-Zini Alexandre, Audeh Bissan, GĂ©rardin Christel, Duclos Catherine, Gagneux-Brunon Amandine, Bousquet Cedric