On the eve of a new year, a cluster of pneumonia cases that would later pose a global health threat was discovered in Wuhan, China. The novel disease was later named COVID-19 by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Globally, the number of confirmed C0VID-19 cases was over 11 million as of July 3. On that day, the US has recorded more than 2.7 million cases. This figure makes the US the worst-hit country.
There are many conspiracy theories about COVID-19. These conspiracies are a source of worry for health professionals. As a result, health organizations have gone beyond fighting the pandemic to countering misinformation and disinformation.
While scientists continue to find the COVID-19 vaccine. It's proactive to take the fight to the media because the media is the vehicle through which misinformation travels.
Apart from being the vehicle for fake information, the media is currently being used by the anti-vaccine movement to propagate their agenda. That's why the media is the vaccine before the vaccine.
The spread of misinformation is disturbing. Before a covid19 vaccine is ready, we must counter the falsehood in the media.
Some Misconceptions About COVID-19
Misconceptions about COVID-19 thrive due to political enmity, religious sentiments, and lack of quality research. Opinions are sharply divided on the origin and cause of COVID-19. Some people believe that the virus leaked from the Wuhan Institute of virology. To many, it is a bioweapon.
Others believe that the cause is related to the 5G cellular network. In fact, unverified information reveals that vaccination is part of the Bill Gates foundation plan to implant microchips in humans.
For instance, a study by Pew research center among some US adults revealed that 43% believes that the infection came about naturally. 23% said it was developed intentionally in the lab. 25% of the participants were not sure of the cause while 1% said it does not really exist.
A study among 3000 US and 3000 UK adults at Stanford University revealed the following:
23.9% of US and 18.3 UK adults said the disease is likely a bio-weapon.
5% US and 3% of UK respondents believe infected individuals experience fatality.
53.9% US and 39.2% UK participants said children were at high risk of death.
37.8% US and 29.8% UK respondents thought wearing a common surgical mask is highly effective to prevent transmission.
29.1% US and 24.4% UK citizens felt to receive a package from China would expose them to the infection.
29.7% US and 40.7% UK citizens would refuse to give people with Asian sounding name a ride.
Both US and UK participants said taking antibiotics, using hand sanitizers, and swallowing normal saline could guard against COVID-19.
To fight a pandemic, there should be a high level of equality in the amount of correct and accurate information that everyone possesses. Because an individual with wrong information is a threat to hundreds of thousands.
COVID-19 Vaccine And The Media
Currently, there are over 140 vaccine candidates. More than 20 potential vaccines have advanced to the stage of a clinical trial.
Developing a vaccine is enormous in every sense-scientifically and financially. Although it usually takes years to produce a vaccine, vaccine makers are in the race to produce vaccines quickly.
However, getting covid19 vaccines ready may not be the end of the battle against the disease. The task of convincing people to take the vaccine becomes tougher because the campaign against the vaccine is thriving in the media.
WHO has listed vaccine hesitancy among the top 10 global health threats. The conspiracy that the COVID-19 vaccine could kill more people is another reason why we should worry about the spread of falsehood.
A poll conducted by the Associated Press and the University of Chicago among 1,056 people indicated that only 50% of Americans are willing to get a covid19 vaccine. For vaccination effectiveness, at least 70% of the population must be vaccinated.
Another poll conducted among 1,640 people by new YouGov showed that 28% of Americans believe that Bill Gates plans to use the vaccine as a cover to implant microchips in people.
The task of boosting vaccine confidence is as important as producing one. Vaccination is a proven means to effectively guard against an infectious disease like covid19. Won't the social media kill the vaccine before it's ready? To prevent this, we must prevent and kill vaccine conspiracies in the media.
Why The Media Is The Source Of Misinformation
Bruom Kessler Foundation published a statistic that revealed that 40% of 112 million public social media posts in 64 languages were from unreliable sources.
Another study conducted by the foundation confirmed that 42% of 178 million tweets were produced by bots and 40% were unreliable.
Reuters says 1/3 of social media users have reported seeing false or misleading information about the virus while blackbird AI noted that 38% of tweets were twisted content. Newsguard published a report implicating 191 websites in Europe and North America for publishing false info.
This barrage of false information made UN secretary-general, Antonio Guterres to posit that "Our enemy is also the growing surge of misinformation". In a swift response to counter misinformation and disinformation, the WHO created a section known as 'myth buster' on its website. Social media companies have also taken giant strides to depopulate falsehoods. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and WhatsApp have removed many wrong contents from their platform.
Why Should We Bother?
In a world where a social media user spends an average of 479 minutes per day with media. Misinformation has the tendency to spread like wildfire. Studies have shown that news consumption has risen by 36% worldwide.
Another study also showed that the time spent on social media has increased by 21% worldwide. Facebook has about 2.6 billion monthly active users while Facebook as 275 million twitter users. Reuters institute noted that 59%, 27%, and 24% of fake content remained on Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook respectively.
While contact-tracing is one of the ways to identify those who might have contracted the virus, is it possible to trace individuals who have consumed fake information? Efforts by health organizations to disseminate accurate information through their verified social media handle and website is the ray of hope that exposes the darkness that falsehood brings.
To conquer misinformation is not to share any- this should be the watchword of everyone as the world continues to battle with COVID-19.