PARIS • As early as February, with the global pandemic spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a warning about “infodemic”, a wave of fake news and misinformation about the deadly new disease on social media.
Now with hopes hanging on Covid-19 vaccines, the WHO and experts are warning that those same phenomena could jeopardize the introduction of immunization programs that are supposed to help end the suffering.
“Coronavirus disease is the first pandemic in history where technology and social media are being used on a massive scale to keep people safe, informed, productive and connected,” WHO said.
“At the same time, the technology we rely on to keep in touch and information is enabling and inflating infographic which continues to undermine the global response and jeopardizes measures to control the pandemic.”
More than 1.4 million people have died since the pandemic emerged in China late last year, but three developers are already applying for approval for their vaccines to be used as early as next month .
Beyond logistics, though, governments must also wrestle with skepticism about vaccines that have been developed very quickly at a time when social media has been a tool for information and untruth about the virus.
Last month, a study from Cornell University in the United States found that US President Donald Trump is the world’s largest driver of Covid-19 inaccurate information.
In April, he thought about the possibility of using disinfectants inside the body as a cure and also promoted unproven treatments.
WHO said: “Without the proper trust and the right information, diagnostic tests will not be used, immunization campaigns (or campaigns to promote effective vaccines) will not reach their targets, and the virus will continue to thrive.”
Outlandish claims by conspiracy theorists that the pandemic is a fake hoax masked by elites like Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates to control the population are already making their rounds on social media. They also claimed that the vaccination programs were a shield to implant microscopic chips in humans so that they could be monitored.
Dr Steven Wilson, co-author of Social Media and Hesitancy Vaccine published in the British Medical Journal last month, said: “My fear is that this will increase the number of individuals who are hesitant about getting a vaccine. Any vaccine just as effective as our ability to apply it to a population. “
FRANCE MEDIA AGENCY