• Caroline Margrethe Pedersen
  • Ditte Marie Bro Pedersen
  • Klara Rytter Nissen
  • Cecilie Line Mikkelsen
  • Isabella Braagaard
4. term, Communication, Master (Master Programme)
Purpose: The purpose of this thesis is to examine how the COVID-19 vaccine is discursively constructed by the Danish authorities, media and population. A theoretical foundation based on risk and crisis communication as well as different societal typologies and a detailed analysis of language and discourse will form the basis for the examination of risk and crisis discourses in relation to the COVID-19 vaccine.

Design/methodology/approach: This thesis examines the construction of risk and crisis discourses by authorities, media and population as a social phenomenon by examining the discursive construction of the COVID-19 vaccine as a case study. The case study involves three types of data gathered from the social actors relevant to the COVID-19 vaccine. The data comprises four press conferences held by the Danish authorities, 107 media articles from the Danish media and six focus group interviews with a selection of people from the Danish population. The data is examined through a critical discourse analysis that works as the methodology in this thesis, along with the scientific theory, social constructivism, with features from critical realism. Together these form the frame for our choice of methods.

Findings: The main contributions of this thesis are the findings of discourses of risk and crisis which are expressed by a hegemonic discourse of trust and a competitive discourse of scepticism. The competitive discourses are based on a national versus global community, evidence versus politics, trust versus mistrust, fear versus hope and free choice versus coercion. The discourse of trust is constructed across the risk and crisis communication by the authorities, media and population in relation to the COVID-19 vaccine as a solution to the COVID-19 crisis. On the other hand, the scepticism discourse is found in the linguistic and discursive construction of the vaccine by the media and partly by the population. The competing risk and crisis discourses regarding the COVID-19 vaccine are thereby constructive for the formation of subgroups in the Danish society.

Research limitations: The thesis contains a large amount of data which serves as both a strength and weakness for the discourse analysis. The large amount of data and theoretical foundation provides several sources of different understandings of risk and crisis to the analysis which uncovers interesting tensions and agreements. On the other hand, it makes it difficult to apply all the data within the comprehensive critical discourse analysis. Furthermore, the examined case is an ongoing risk and crisis within society. Therefore, our results are limited to the examined timeframe as new factors can constantly arise which have implications for the case.

Research implications: The findings contribute to the field of risk and crisis communication which can be implied to other risk and crisis events. The findings also provide knowledge concerning vaccines in general and the different discourses in relation to this. 

Originality/value: The value of this thesis is that it is developed during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and implementation of the COVID-19 vaccine and that it examines three social actors’ different understandings of risk and crisis in relation to a vaccine. The qualitative empirical approach has led to the opportunity to work in depth with the data.

Keywords: critical discourse analysis, COVID-19 vaccine, Denmark, risk, crisis, trust, scepticism
Publication date2021
Number of pages244
ID: 413315222