Fake news and anxiety make Asia lag in the Covid-19 vaccine campaign

Although the number of people being vaccinated against Covid-19 in Asia is increasing, progress in the fight against the epidemic may be slowed by the emergence of misinformation on social networks, causing people to panic. psychological reluctance to vaccinate.

Misinformation – big challenge in vaccination campaign

Indonesia has discovered and removed 2,000 vaccine-related misinformation on social networks. Earlier in July, an account posted an image of five coffins in a mosque, with the intentionally confusing caption that they contained the bodies of recently vaccinated people in the same family. family.

In the Philippines, in August, the Ministry of Health of the country removed a video posted on its Facebook account called “Doc Ron”, claiming that Pfizer’s vaccine contained the HIV virus.

Japan is also affected by false information posted on social networks. According to a Nikkei survey, in the first 7 months of 2021, there were 110,000 Twitter posts citing information that vaccination can lead to infertility.

In many Asian countries, governments and experts are trying to communicate more effectively with citizens, finding ways to block attempts to spread disinformation. Although certain effects have been achieved, it is still difficult to eliminate the hesitation to vaccinate. This is why Asia still has a long way to go before reaching the vaccine coverage needed to resume normal activities.

Japan has fully vaccinated about 50% of its population since launching a vaccination campaign this year. Particularly for the elderly group, 88% were fully vaccinated. However, there are still many young people who have not been vaccinated against the disease. Based on studies in Tokyo and surrounding areas in July, a Japanese government panel of experts said that only about 45% of people in their 20s and 30s have had the vaccine or want to get vaccinated. rooms, while it is 60% among people aged 40-50. The ideal number, the commission said, would be to complete immunization for 80% of the elderly and 75% of the young.

Now officials and experts in the country are trying to convince people who are hesitant to get vaccinated, especially young people. Taro Kono, Japan’s minister in charge of vaccines and the fight against Covid-19 said: “There are false rumors such as the Covid-19 vaccine that makes people infertile. I hope you will get the vaccine without fear.”

Countries around the world have varying degrees of reluctance to vaccinate. According to Our World in Data, as of early September, about 40% of the US population is still unvaccinated, and this number is in the UK or Israel for 30%.

In the Philippines, where 15.4% of the population was fully vaccinated as of September 12, a survey in June found that 43% of respondents said they wanted to be vaccinated, 36% did not. injections and the rest have either been injected or a decision has not yet been made. Earlier in the survey in February, only 16% of respondents said they were ready to get vaccinated.

Indonesia also has about 15.4% of the population fully vaccinated by September 12. There are many factors that lead to delays in vaccine delivery and distribution. A survey released by Jakarta-based polling company Indikator Politik on August 25 found that 60 percent of respondents said they were “less willing” or “not willing” to get vaccinated, and half in This number expressed concern about vaccine side effects.

The emergence of fake news or misinformation about vaccines is not surprising, said Shinichi Yamaguchi, an associate professor at the Japan International University specializing in social media research. According to him, some people share this information because they are angry or worried. “Anyone can be deceived, regardless of age or gender.”

What leads to vaccine anxiety?

Fighting fake news is a big challenge for governments. According to research published in the medical journal Lancet in 2020, Japan has one of the lowest levels of vaccine trust in the world even before the pandemic.

Indonesia – the country with the largest Muslim population in the world, has seen a wave of boycotts of some vaccines in the past because they are considered incompatible with Islamic regulations. Islam prohibits the consumption of products derived from pork, while a substance commonly used in making swine-derived vaccines, galetin, has caused concern. Vaccine approval in Indonesia is subject to review by the Ulama Islamic Council (MUI), an influential clerical group. A poll conducted by Indikator Politik found that 4% of respondents said they did not believe or were unsure whether a vaccine provided by the government was appropriate.

In addition to asking the media to remove false information, Indonesian authorities have launched a digital literacy program to educate people not to easily trust content that is spread. on the Internet.

In the Philippines, groundless accusations that the dengue vaccine caused the deaths of children, which caused a stir a few years ago, raised doubts about the effectiveness of the vaccine for a long time.

Expert Yoshimura of Japan’s Cov-Navi project said that the key to fighting the Covid-19 epidemic is providing people with accurate and easy-to-understand information. He also said that governments need to make efforts to educate teenagers, even younger people and parents about Covid-19 prevention measures, as well as increase confidence in vaccines.

According to Yoshimura, concern about the effectiveness of vaccines is not the only obstacle to the vaccination process. There is still a lot of work to be done regarding the provision of vaccines to people who want to be vaccinated. In Japan, vaccinations at some universities and companies have been stopped due to lack of supply.

The Covid-19 vaccine is believed to be effective in preventing the disease from progressing so badly that it requires hospitalization. “No matter how much the number of hospital beds increases and the capacity of hospitals increases, we still have to find ways to prevent infection,” said Mr. Yoshimura. Along with social distancing and border control measures, vaccination is considered the most effective measure against Covid-19.”

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