Ukamaka Joy Iloegbu, Ifeoma Vivian Dunu


The outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic in late 2019 though not now a health threat as before was a serious health challenge of global proportions. Hence, discovery and rolling out of vaccines was anticipated to be a significant breakthrough in the effort to tame the pandemic. However, as countries rolled out COVID-19 vaccines, so much controversy trailed this effort. Incidentally, these controversies and conspiracy theories, rather than subsiding with time, had escalated among both healthcare professionals and ordinary people (El-Elimat, Abu AlSamen, Almomani, Al-Sawalha & Alali, 2021), which potentially threatened vaccination compliance among the populace. Against this backdrop, this study examined audience response to COVID-19 vaccine conspiracy theories. The research was anchored on the Reception Theory. The thesis of this study was to examine the extent of audience awareness and response to these controversies vis-a- vis taking health responsible decision. As argued by the reception theory messages are not swallowed hook line and sinker by the audience but rather the audience respond to them through three ways – Dominant/Hegemonic, Negotiated and oppositional positions. Using a mixed method approach comprising survey and focus group discussion (FGD), this study interrogated federal civil servants response to the COVID-19 vaccine conspiracy theories. The area of study was Southeast Nigeria and the population was federal civil servants numbering 2, 488 according to data sourced from the office of the Head of Service of the respective states of the zone. A structured questionnaire was employed to collect data from 345 respondents selected via the multi-stage approach, while qualitative data were obtained via five focus group discussion (FGD) sessions of six participants each. Quantitative data were analysed using simple percentages while the descriptive thematic approach was employed for analysing the qualitative data. Findings showed that there was high exposure to the COVID-19 vaccine conspiracy theories among federal civil servants in Southeast Nigeria. However, the civil servants, in most cases, did not believe the conspiracy theories. Similarly, they were not significantly influenced by the vaccine conspiracy theories in considering whether to get vaccinated or not. This aligns with one of the arguments of the reception theory that the audience has the power to negotiate. So they were not significantly influenced by the vaccine conspiracy theories in considering whether to get vaccinated or not. The study concluded that COVID-19 vaccine conspiracy theories did not have significant influence on the vaccination decision taken by federal civil servants in Southeast Nigeria. It among others, recommended that future vaccine campaigns should anticipate and plan ahead against conspiracy theories based on the COVID-19 experience and similar incidents such as seen with the polio vaccine previously. Such a proactive approach will ensure better management of such issues whenever they arise.


COVID-19, vaccines, conspiracy theories, federal civil servants

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