Wales

COVID-19 Vaccination Misinformation, Disinformation & Fake News

COVID-19 vaccinations have been administered to billions of people around the world, with numbers increasing daily. In countries where vaccinations have been rolled out successfully, there are fewer infections, hospitalisations and deaths, and those who have been double-jabbed but caught the virus tend to suffer fewer life-changing effects. In general, in countries without vaccination programmes, the opposite is true.

There are many people who choose not to be vaccinated, for one reason or another. Side-effects, fertility problems, foetal health/wellbeing and religion are frequently cited, amongst many others. Some may have had a negative experience with vaccinations or other medicines in the past. It could be true that there may be some after-effects which nobody is aware of, especially when you consider that most vaccines and other drugs are subject to a research, development and testing cycle over many years. Potential risks from having a COVID-19 vaccine should be balanced against the consequences of becoming infected and / or passing on the virus to others. Indeed, whether or not to be vaccinated is entirely down to individual choice.

People who choose to either be or not be vaccinated should not be targeted with abuse – online or offline – from those who disagree with their choices.

However, with COVID-19 being a deadly virus which is still very much with us – and likely to be so for a long time to come – it is vital that we have access to the facts – as they become known – which enable us to make informed decisions.

Free speech

In most, if not all countries, there are groups of ‘anti-vaxxers’ who not only decline the vaccine for themselves, but also their loved ones. Some anti-vaxxers are vocal – for example on social media, websites, in the news and at public meetings and demonstrations – about their cause, some spreading reasons for not receiving the COVID-19 vaccination which they either believe, or know fall under the heading of misinformation, disinformation or fake news. The fact is that the spread of misinformation, disinformation and conspiracy theories is continuing to cost lives and endanger the ability of health agencies around the world to end the pandemic through mass immunisation.

Why some people are being put off being vaccinated by what they read, see or hear 

As we have said above, it is perfectly acceptable for people to decline being vaccinated, but for the right reasons. Here are some examples of the wrong reasons, which are untruths regularly spread by some anti-vaxxers:

“The COVID vaccination will give me COVID”

“Older adults can’t have the vaccine”

“The COVID vaccination will alter my DNA”

“The COVID vaccination contains a microchip so we can be tracked”

“The COVID vaccine contains tissue from foetuses”

“If I’ve had already had COVID-19, I don’t need the vaccine”

Everybody should be entitled to air their views, preferably in a balanced, objective way. It is the responsibility of all of us to decide whether those views – and information spread online – are valid.

Advice

  • Approach what you read or hear about COVID-19 vaccines rationally, questioning why it would have been written, or whether it is attempting to change your viewpoint.
  • Is anybody else reporting the same information? Check to see if reputable, widely-respected websites and newsfeeds have also covered the news you have seen.
  • Research the source. Find out more about the publisher, for example whether it is a reputed, normally reliable source or the personal blog of an individual. See if you can find unbiased reviews of the source.
  • Check facts. Authentic news is often backed up by official data, surveys and previous, similar instances of the occurrence being reported. Often, it is quite clear that information is anecdotal, or simply fabricated.
  • Use your instincts. Remember that if something sounds too strange, unreal or weird to be true, it often is.

For expert advice straight from qualified doctors, please take a look at the three videos titled ‘COVID 19 Misinformation Advice’ produced in conjunction with the British High Commission in Kingston, Jamaica. Just visit www.getsafeonline.org.jm/resources/videos and scroll down to ‘Advice Videos’.

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