17 Jan

A controversial topic on Twitter, child vaccination accounts for 270 thousand posts on the platform in one week

Updated 24 de January, 2022 at 11:09 am

  • A majority on Twitter (53.1% of the profiles), groups favoring child immunization against Covid-19 focused on attacking statements made by the pastor Silas Malafaia, who called the decision “infanticide”;
  • Right-wing partisan group becomes isolated after condemning the potential obligation of child vaccination in Brazil, claiming that the parents, and not the State, should be responsible for decisions regarding their children.

Between January 7 at 4pm and January 14 at 4pm, there were 277.1 thousand posts on Twitter referring to child vaccination against Covid-19 in Brazil. The moment with the most mobilization in the debate had 65.4 thousand tweets and happened on Tuesday (11), when messages favoring child immunization intensified in response to statements made by the pastor Silas Malafaia in previous days, when he called child vaccination infanticide. In addition to criticism of the pastor’s statements, the posts favoring child vaccination mentioned the number of Covid-19 cases and deaths among children in Brazil, as well as examples of other countries that have adopted child vaccination, to defend the decision. The hashtags with the most engagement in the period analyzed were #derrubamalafaia and #derrubemalafaia (“take down Malafaia”) – campaigns on Twitter for the suspension of the pastor’s account –, which appeared in 41.4 thousand and 2.3 thousand posts, respectively, as well as #vacinaparacriancasja (“child vaccines now”), used in 2.3 thousand tweets.

Map of interactions in the debate about child vaccination on Twitter
Period: January 7 at 4pm until January 14 at 4pm

Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV DAPP

Blue – 30.2% of profiles | 37.2% of interactions
This group included conservative politicians, entrepreneurs and bloggers and condemned the potential obligation of child vaccination in Brazil, claiming that the supposed “experimental” nature of the vaccines could threaten children’s health and lives. Focusing their attacks on the Brazilian Health Regulatory Agency (Agência Nacional de Vigilância Sanitária – Anvisa), which authorized the measure, many posts defended that the State cannot steal the parents’ right to make decisions about their own children – in this case, regarding their vaccination. The criticism against the organization included the fact that the Agency was not clear regarding the studies and tests grounding the decision, and that the Agency exempted itself from responsibility in the event of collateral effects in children.

Red – 30.2% of profiles | 35.2% of interactions
Group centered on alternative media channels, political activists and health professionals engaging in campaigns for the suspension of the account of Pastor Silas Malafaia on Twitter after his statements calling children vaccination infanticide. The profiles also congratulated the position of the president of Anvisa, Antônio Barra Torres, who demanded an apology from President Jair Bolsonaro after his allegations opposing child immunization and attacking the institution. There was also strong repercussion of the news of the first Brazilian child to receive the Covid-19 vaccine: Davi, an 8-year-old indigenous boy.

Green – 11.1% of profiles | 7.7% of interactions
Group mobilized by health professionals, communication channels and other users, with posts commenting on the efficacy of the vaccine in terms of reducing mortality rate due to the virus, emphasizing that, despite the increase in daily Covid-19 cases in 2022, there was a 10% reduction in mortality data. The posts also mentioned an alleged neglect by the federal government regarding child vaccination and remembered the provisions for child vaccination in the Brazilian Constitution in the context of children guardianship.

Lilac – 6.4% of profiles | 4.6% of interactions
Group composed of political and social activists opposing opinions that question the safety of child vaccination, emphasizing the fact that children in Brazil are exposed to even higher risks due to the indiscriminate use of toxic pesticides in the country. The mayor of São Luís had a significant level of participation in the group, publishing information about children vaccination in the city.

Yellow – 5.4% of profiles | 3.8% of interactions
Group including profiles of other users commenting a viral tweet joking about opinions against child vaccination, particularly those questioning the composition of the vaccine and its long-term effects, mentioning the supposed lack of concern of parents regarding processed foods that their children usually consume. Many posts also celebrated the beginning of child vaccination in Brazil.