Monday, April 22News For London

How fake news has increased concerns over Covid-19 vaccines

Misinformation and fake news has been the sole indicator to growing concerns over taking a Covid-19 vaccine in the UK. More than 55% of the population need to undergo vaccination in order to obtain herd immunity.

Video by Hai Anh Vu and Haiyue Zhang

The UK gave emergency authorisation to Pfizer and BioNTech’s new Covid-19 vaccine, making it the first Western country to allow mass inoculation against Covid-19. There are a number of vaccines now available which has led to increasing concerns that misinformation online could turn some people against being vaccinated. 

As early as this week, the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine will begin being distributed. Trials have shown that this vaccine is up to 95% effective. Nevertheless, members of the public share their thoughts on taking the vaccine.

Tara Panayi, a young mother living in London expressed her concern: “I wouldn’t do it. I just don’t think there’s enough information about what’s in the vaccine, what are the side effects? Especially because I’ve got a daughter, I wouldn’t take it right now.”

(Photo courtesy: Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

Pfitzer’s been given protection from legal action by the UK government. The UK government has granted Pfitzer with a legal indemnity, protecting them from being sued, enabling the vaccine to be able to be given to the public.

Ministers have also changed the law in recent weeks to give new protection to Pfizer as well as NHS staff and manufacturers of the drug.

According to a new Opinium poll for the observer, one in three people are unlikely to take the vaccine. More than a third (35%) of the population are unwilling to take it, while 48% worry that it will not be safe, 47% feel it may not be effective and 55% worry that it may have side effects. 

Another study was conducted to get further insight to the public’s willingness to undergo the Covid-19 vaccination, the study was led by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. It asked 8,000 people about their likelihood to take the vaccine, prior to being exposed to ‘misinformation’ online, more than half (54%) of those surveyed said they would definitely take the vaccine. They were then shown ‘misinformation’ online and the number dropped by 6.4%.

Study shows 54% are willing to take the vaccine.

Lucie Stepankova, a student from University of Swansea shared her experience when she encountered fake news about Covid-19 on Facebook: “I’ve seen the thing people saying there is a microchip in the vaccine that helps the government track you, things like that. I think that for people who don’t have much critical thinking around fake news, that could be dangerous because herd immunity is especially important here. ” 

Professor Heidi Larson from the school of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said “Covid-19 vaccines will be crucial to helping to end this pandemic and returning our lives to near normal. However, vaccines only work if people take them. Misinformation plays into existing anxieties and uncertainty around new vaccines.”

It is estimated that a Covid-19 vaccine will need to be accepted by at least 55% of the population to provide herd immunity, some scientists anticipate even higher numbers will be needed. 

Harley Medic International provide gold standard PCR tests and Covid-19 Fit to Fly Certificates, their researchers believe that once mass inoculation begins, travelling across borders will be similar to flying with a Covid-19 Fit to Fly Certificate, instead now you will need to travel with a proof of vaccination record (POVR). 

Tyrone Abraham, a London resident said that “fake news is very serious. I think because it intends to be entertaining it can also be very damaging for people to decide what’s true and what’s false. I would say it has major effects on people’s opinions.”

A research team tried to quantify the impact of misleading information online on the likelihood to take the vaccine, and identify socio-economic groups vulnerable and most susceptible to online misinformation to determine those at risk of not being vaccinated. 

In the UK, those who do not affiliate themselves with any of the four political groups are far more likely to refuse a vaccine.

Many believe that it is essential to take this vaccine for the protection of ourselves and others, they believe it is a “selfish act” to find excuses not to take it. Others refuse to take it until they find out that it is 100% safe, that rolling out the vaccine so quickly does not give us time to see the long-term effects or vital issues from it which could be fatal. 

Photo courtesy: Getty Image

In an update to Facebook’s Covid-19 misinformation policy, Facebook will begin removing false claims regarding the new vaccines. Youtube has already been removing videos with false Covid-19 vaccine information since October, it is vital for large platforms to keep up to date with strict vaccine related content.

Many social media platforms have been under pressure to combat fake news and misinformation on Covid-19 cures.