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article imageFighting online misinformation on the COVID-19 vaccine

By Karen Graham     Feb 15, 2021 in Internet
Social media users are being warned about the use of COVID-19 vaccine misinformation online. Even as more people are being vaccinated against the coronavirus, a steady force of anti-vaccination activists continues to play on people's fears.
With the global effort to defeat the coronavirus ramping up, nations are working even harder to get as many people as possible vaccinated, even as new variants of the virus continue to pop up.
Governments and health officials are mounting coordinated online campaigns to build the public's confidence in the vaccines and at the same time, combat the misinformation being spread on those platforms about the origins of the virus, how it is transmitted, and the efficacy of vaccines.
Anti-vaccination groups, for whatever reason, scan the Internet for certain hashtags and keywords, ready to flood the social media posts with carefully worded misinformation that is meant to play on people’s fears about side effects or more lasting health consequences of having the vaccine, according to Politico.
Canada's chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, on Sunday warned Canadians to maintain vigilance about the pandemic information found online because some of it is misleading and its content seems to be growing.
"Throughout the pandemic, we have relied on technology and information-sharing platforms to keep us safe, informed, and connected," Tam wrote in her Sunday COVID-19 update, reports CBC News.
"At the same time, these platforms have contributed to an overabundance of information — an infodemic — that worsens the current pandemic by allowing false information to circulate more easily, hampering public health responses, creating confusion and distrust, and ultimately making it more difficult for people to make vital decisions about their health and safety."
Dr. Tam classifies the social media problem surrounding the coronavirus pandemic into two issues: "false information that is not created with the intention of hurting others — and disinformation, an extreme type of misinformation created with the intention of causing harm."
"During this pandemic, disinformation has been used to try to erode social cohesion, our trust in each other, our communities, and even our public health institutions."
Isreal is now having the same problem with online misinformation, and it has arisen suddenly, causing a big slowdown in the nation's vaccination campaign, reports the Associated Press.
Israel launched its COVID-19 vaccine campaign in December. Today, over a quarter of the population — 2.5 million people — has received both doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, according to the Health Ministry, while 42 percent of the population has received their first shots.
However, when health authorities announced earlier this month that the vaccine will now be available to everyone over the age of 16, Isreal's vaccination rate dropped from 127,000 per day to just over 106,000 vaccinations per day, according to the Health Ministry.
Last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said the only obstacle to completing the vaccination campaign was “the fake news and the superstitious and sometimes malicious beliefs that are planted in the public and on the internet.”
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