Vaccination is fast becoming a key intervention against the Covid-19 pandemic across the world. Unfortunately, myths, conspiracy theories, and misconceptions about the Covid-19 vaccine continue to circulate and acting on the wrong information can hamper the process.
“Social Media has been the main channel for spreading anti-vaccine information” says Eugene Nforngwa, Social Communication Expert, Founder and Director of the African Knowledge and Policy Center (AKPC).
Social Media strongly reported from diverse sources how the available Covid-19 vaccines doesn’t work properly with humans, how it could cause long term effects leading up to death, how governments have introduced microchip to track it’s citizens, and how it is a ploy by “Bill Gate” and other institutions to reduce the world’s population among others. This created and atmosphere of suspicion, and a breeding ground for uncertainty, skepticism, distrust and dismissal of public health measures.
“These are the sorts of notions that are held by many people who are reluctant and hesitant about getting the COVID-19 vaccine. It is said that most patients would develop serious side effects within a period of less than a month, since I took my vaccine it’s over three months now, and nothing has happened to me, is it not clear that it is mere misinformation?” 52 years old Abong Jude, an entrepreneur in Yaoundé told News Upfront.
Effects of the Social Media misinformation are visible in the vaccination campaign launched in Cameroon on April 12, 2021. An internal Enlarged Programme for Immunization (EPI) survey found that 37% of doctors and medical staff are not willing to receive any vaccine, questioning its reliability.
“During the first 95 days of the vaccination campaign, 300.000 people had received their vaccines.” declared Dr. Shalom Ndoula, Permanent Secretary of EPI during a press conference organised by the Minister of Public Health, Dr. Manaouda Malachie.
Statistics from the Ministry of Public Health indicated that the government intend to vaccinate 80% of its over 20 million target population in 2021.
The Way Out of Social Media Infodemics
As days pass by, the issue of vaccine safety seems to have remained a stumbling block following persistent Social Media publications.
To break the yoke of reluctance, the government launched a broad-based aggressive and awareness creation vaccination campaign from July 7-11, 2021.
According to experts, the Government of Cameroon needs rather to improve communication about the vaccination campaign.
“We live in an era where what is viral is considered as truth… What government can do is also to share information not only thriugh mainstream media but to proactively use all it’s Social Media outlets publishing pop ups debunking some of the Covid-19 myths and making them viral as well” Ngala Desmond, Country Director, DefyHateNow, an organisation that fights hate speech and misinformation told News Upfront.
Opinion leaders too could be used to influence people’s convictions about vaccines.
To Dr. Dange Nana Franck, President of the National Council of Pharmacists in Cameroon, vaccines have side effects but are still very effective.
Through vaccination, Cameroon was able to kick out Polio from the country.