Rampant disinformation and extreme politicization has raised the risk of underuse of anti-Covid vaccines.
As Covid-19 vaccines have started to be given to the patients in some parts of the world, conspiracy theory against the vaccine has also started. The world has been praying for a miracle to put an end to the Covid-19. Now that the news of efficacious vaccines has sparked a glimmer of hope, a plethora of controversies has surfaced, even before the world has produced it in abundance to save the mankind.
After the sudden outbreak of the plague, some countries took it seriously, while others took for granted. Countries such as India, South Korea, Newzeland, Nepal and some African nations acted early enough to perceive the gravity of the threat and scrambled to explore the ways to contain it. On the other hand, so-called advanced countries such as America, the UK and some European nations did not take the matter much seriously, letting the virus spread in their countries. America is still grappling with overwhelming hospitalizations followed by the highest death rate worldwide. Trump administration undermined initial threats of contagious disease. “It’s a hoax by democrats,” he said. In an effort to smear the opposition party Trump let the virus spread. For months, he spread false information amid his base followers meticulously painting the pandemic as a theatrical drama to destroy American economy. To further amplify the illusion, he racialized the virus derogatorily labeling it as ‘Chinese virus’.Radicalizing the base supporters formed the core of his political campaign, to the extent that wearing mask, social distancing and hand-washing were projected as a violation of individual freedom. Many of his supporters protested against the lockdown and refused to wear masks.
In the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson displayed unstable attitude towards the plague. Initially, he opposed the concept of full lockdown for which he received criticism from the opponent labor party. As cases raged up uncontrollably, his government began to enforce restrictions. In between, he relaxed the restrictions, which then led to further spike of cases.
The world saw the blatant abuse of social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and You Tube in spreading misinformation about the disease. These high-tech companies struggled hard to filter misinformation. Many circulated misleading narratives about the virus. They tried to persuade their followers not to follow corporate minds such as Bill Gates who, they said, was using the pandemic just to amass wealth. Some others linked the virus with what they called “5G tyranny”. Many people around the world still seem to believe Covid-19 is a hoax. QAnon, an elaborate conspiracy group in America, recently shared a radical message that the pandemic is not real. They stand by Trump’s assertion that it’s a hoax despite him being infected. This disinformation has caused more deaths than probably the virus itself.
Now that the vaccines have finally been developed, similar misinformation is being spread about it. Medical science suggests that the general period of time for any vaccine to hold full efficacy runs between two to ten years. More popular anti-Covid vaccine like Pfizer was discovered in less than a year by speeding the required trials. Such knowledge has already diminished public trust. Besides, countries like Russia rushed to declare the vaccination campaign even before third phase trial was passed. The commoners sensed something fishy given the suspicious political and swift medical engagement in the whole process of vaccine discovery, production and distribution.
According to recent CNN survey, above 60 percent Americans are reluctant to undergo vaccination until its long-term effects are proved. In this situation, Covid-19 immunization might be a difficult order to accomplish for the world leaders.
Rampant disinformation and extreme politicization has raised the risk of underuse of anti-Covid vaccines. The world needs to stand ready to fight this disinformation. Encouraging doctors to release videos with authentic covid information, urging high-tech companies to hide or temporarily suspend conspiracy theory groups, mandating lockdown protocols, letting medical experts lead the vaccine campaign with full transparency and accountability and raising awareness among people could go a long way in defeating misleading narratives about the anti-Covid vaccines.
Unless everybody acts responsibly, as American president-elect Joe Biden recently said, the virus will win over us instead of us winning the war against the virus.