Vaccine Refusal and Hesitancy in Romania. A Discourse Analysis

UEFISCDI: PN-III-P1-1.1-PD-2016-0145

Project implementation period: 02/05/2018 – 30/04/2020

The project proposal entitled ”Vaccine Refusal and Hesitancy in Romania.  A Discourse Analysis” aims to identify and analyze the discourses and main repertoires dedicated to vaccination circulated in various public arenas in Romania: TV-shows, online articles, blogs and comments. The discourse analysis (DA) approach that I intend to use regards discourses not as a neutral medium for expressing attitudes and thoughts but as the primary arena for human action being situated, constructive and constructed.  On a market of repertoires, that is at war between those who express pro- and respectively anti- vaccine arguments, the parents who have to make a well informed decision about their children immunization will be exposed to ready-made and refined discourses that may also conceal assumptions and data considered taken for granted. As discourses and repertoires are more rhetorical efficient, better founded morally on wide accepted social values and norms, and is easy to find, acquire and master they become more tempting. My hypothesis is that the more tempting the discourses are the more probably they will be picked up and assimilated becoming part of parents’ social actions and thus a ground for their decisions and justifications. Knowing how and why discourses are picked up and assimilated and how they becoming repertoires and thus verbalized reasons for decision and later for justifications, what functions they fulfill locally and ideologically, and what are their main rhetorical components may provide a new useful insight on the matter of immunization decisions in time when vaccine refusal and hesitancy is considered a major problem both globally and in Romania.

Cosmin Toth – Project Director

Cosima Rughiniș – Mentor


Cosmin Toth: Lecturer, Faculty of Sociology and Social Work, University of Bucharest,   teaching the following courses, seminars and laboratory work: Sociology of Organizations, Organizational Behavior, Decision and Decision Techniques, Organizational and Administrative Culture. In his postdoctoral research became interested in discourse analysis (DA) as an approach that brings a novel methodological and epistemological stance that shifts dramatically the focus of research setting the language as the primary arena for human action.

Several articles follow DA approach in various fields. “Identity, small stories and interpretative repertoires in research interviews. An account of market researchers’ discursive positioning strategies” (Toth, 2014) aims to see how participant in a sociological interview situation make use of small stories and interpretative repertoires as discursive resources to foster certain situated identity claims. In 2015 an article entitled “Do children need religious education? Discursive construction of children in talk shows by means of rhetorical questions”, analyzes the discursive work done by rhetorical questions in attributing certain traits to the ”child-pupil”, as the central character of the debate regarding religious education in schools. In 2016 published a paper focused on explaining the inconsistencies that appeared in the interview accounts of school counselors from Romania between their professional theories, stated professional mission and actual professional decisions and practices (Toth, 2016, Institutional Repertoires. A Methodological Reassessment of Interviews in the Study of Professional Discourses). Currently he is studying the online discourses on the topic of vaccination in Romania as a decisive factor of vaccine hesitancy.


Cosima Rughiniș: Professor habil. at University of Bucharest, where she teaches courses in sociological research methodology. She studies digital technologies and how they shape classifications and descriptions of people, examining them as ‘equipment for living’ and self-styling. She also looks into gender and age representations and lay psychological models put forward in various media, from social software and digital games to graphic novels and school textbooks.

Cosima Rughiniș is Editor-in-Chief of Compaso – Journal of Comparative Research in Sociology and Anthropology, and Deputy President of the Society of Romanian Sociologists (SSR). She was a visiting researcher at GESIS – European Data Laboratory EUROLAB, and a research fellow at New Europe College, Open Society Institute, and Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin.