With a number of pharmaceutical companies testing potential COVID-19 vaccines, “clinical trial” has now become a common term among the general public. The buzz about clinical trials over the past several months has grown particularly online and in social media conversations. By using sophisticated social listening tools (i.e., software that monitors conversations on social media, forums, and blogs), we at Praxis have seen changes in not only the volume of conversations around the subject of clinical trials but also the topics surrounding the discussions. Read on for some notable highlights.
Prior to the pandemic, detailed information about clinical trials was not widely discussed among the general public. Clinical trials were not a common treatment option discussed for an ailment. In fact, according to the 2019 CISCRP Perceptions and Insights Study, 65% of respondents reported either never or not commonly discussing clinical research studies with their doctor as treatment options.
With the global spread of COVID-19 earlier this year, discussions have changed, and clinical trials for a vaccine quickly gained popularity. This heightened recognition of clinical trials as a possible treatment option sparked a variety of online conversations, with the largest spike happening in early March, coinciding with the onset of COVID-19 cases in the US.
Using our social listening tool, BrandWatch, we compiled a sample of online conversations mentioning clinical trials. After hitting their peak in March, mentions have continued throughout the year, with clinical trials being discussed more frequently, thus leading to larger volumes of mentions compared to the pre-COVID-19 time frame between late 2019 and early 2020.
Different types of content and new topics of conversation surrounding clinical trials have also developed since the onset of the pandemic. The testing of different vaccine options has led to many organic (i.e., naturally occurring) conversations. These discussions have developed in response to people keeping track of trial phases and progress, with some conversations involving specific thoughts and debates about the drugs being tested.
Organic conversations are also forming around the potential consequences of the urgency with which the COVID-19 vaccine is being developed. Some express their concerns about certain novel coronavirus clinical trials being conducted too quickly and missing regulated steps, whereas others defend the clinical trial process, explaining the efficiencies being used to keep typical process guidelines in place.
Finally, people’s feelings about acquiring a COVID-19 vaccine is yet another emerging topic of online discussion. While some mention that they are not willing to receive a vaccine due to unknown long-term side effects, others mention they are willing to get the vaccine both for their own personal disease prevention and for the greater good and in an effect to help end the pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly shifted the volume and content of online conversations about clinical trials, which will most likely shape sentiments surrounding this type of research for years to come. During uncertain and frustrating times, we hope this shift will offer a silver lining in that clinical trials will become more top of mind for patients, more heavily discussed by all, and ultimately more frequently enrolled in, so that new treatment options can be more readily available.