Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Digital Desk Staff

Irish people are privileged to be offered a vaccine and the we should be doing everything we can to counter misinformation about vaccines, particularly on social media.

As the Irish Examiner reports, that is according Dr Ian Norton, a former head of the WHO’s Emergency Medical Team Initiative, now based in Queensland, Australia. He is urging Irish people to get vaccinated.

“When I see people not wanting to take [the Covid-19 vaccine] at home, I ask myself, do they really realise there are so many vulnerable populations in other parts of the world that have not got that privilege?” he said.

“If we all get vaccinated then we have a chance to get back to life as we knew it before.

“If we don’t, and say 15 to 20 per cent of us refuse to be vaccinated, we won’t achieve the herd immunity that we need and therefore we’ll all be stuck in this boat for some time.”

Dr Norton said the Brazilian variant “really worries” him adding that it’s vital the most vulnerable people in society are vaccinated as quickly as possible before it and other variants “begin to circle around.”

Rise of misinformation

For those whose friends and family may have fallen victim to vaccine misinformation, Dr Norton advises trying to put yourself “in their shoes” and examine what has led them to gravitate towards this piece of misinformation in the first place.

“Does it feed into other worries they have?” he asked.

“We see a range of reactions to Covid risks from those who deny there is any issue at all and we should just get back to normal, to those who want to bunker down and not leave the house for the next year.

“The answer is somewhere in the middle.”

Dr Norton has previously led responses to ebola, diphtheria, and measles outbreaks in various countries.

He worries that his peers in public health and Government can be slow to realise the power of social media versus more traditional communication tools, leaving more room for conspiracies and misinformation to spread.

“Unless we adapt our messages to keep up, it leaves a void that’s rapidly filled by misinformation, personal or anecdotal opinion rather than facts and evidence,” he said.

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