Immunity debt or vaccination crisis? A multi-method evidence on vaccine acceptance and media framing for emerging COVID-19 variants

Muhammad Yousaf, Syed Hassan Raza, Nasir Mahmood, Rachel Core, Umer Zaman, Aqdas Malik*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)
123 Downloads (Pure)


Renewed COVID-19 outbreaks, stemming from the highly infectious Delta and Omicron variants, prompted rising fears of a ‘pandemic among the unvaccinated’. To address this prevalent vaccination crisis, media framing communication strategies can amplify the scientific evidence on COVID-19 vaccines to reach diverse geographic and socio-economic communities. The critical role of media framing strategies to engage and encourage large populations regarding vaccine acceptance has been rarely studied, despite growing evidence on vaccine hesitancy. The present study used a multi-method approach (i.e., content analysis and quasi-experiments) that unpacked the framing practices employed by the mainstream media in Pakistan. The findings of the content analysis revealed that the media extensively used uncertainty, conflict, consequences, and action rather than new evidence and reassurance frames in its COVID-19 related campaigns. In a series of quasi-experiments involving 720 participants, we manipulated these six frames of COVID-19 related news coverage (i.e., uncertainty, conflict, consequences, action, new evidence, and reassurance) to investigate the underlying mechanism that influences vaccine acceptance. The findings established that the message-consistent effects of media frames manifesting fear (e.g., consequence and uncertainty) and action cues made receivers more supportive of vaccination. The present study findings theoretically address the calls for a more inclusive “community-health reporting model”, besides offering new evidence on the media framing strategies to deliver more targeted, meaningful, and effective campaigns to raise public acceptance for COVID-19 vaccines.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1855-1863
Number of pages9
Issue number12
Early online date2022
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2022
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Community health
  • COVID-19 vaccination
  • Framing theory
  • Media
  • Public acceptance for vaccination
  • Vaccine hesitancy


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