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Dealing With the New Phase Of COVID-19 Infodemic – The Vaccine Misinformation Wave

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The concerted efforts by scientists and medical experts across the world in rolling out vaccines for COVID-19 has been met with skeptical attacks. Conspiracy theories, misinformation and public apprehensions are among the skepticism restraining undiscerning audiences from getting vaccinated, given the adverse consequences purported to be associated with COVID-19 vaccines. And yet again, fact-checkers are having to war against the verbal missiles threatening the possible end of the pandemic – vaccine infomedic – that have plagued both social and traditional media spaces across the world. The vaccine misinformation has circulated in varied forms and upon access to them Dubawa has verified them accordingly. 

At the onset of the pandemic, there seemed to be widespread and welcoming news of the discovery of purported vaccines, which however all turned out to be false. The alleged discovery of vaccines was found to be so welcoming that political figures were associated with the claims, perhaps to give the claims more weight. This was evidenced in a claim made against former American president, Donald Trump, alleged to have announced a new vaccine, which was found to be false. 

Nonetheless, we found some political actors themselves such as Russian president, Vladimir Putin, misinforming the public and making claims on the approval of a new vaccine, which was  found to be false and misleading.

Thereafter, the mischievous excitement with the alleged discovery of vaccines waned as  skeptics dominated the vaccine narratives and switched to pitching vaccines against Africans. One of these claims was alleged to be from Barack Obama, dissuading Africans from getting vaccinated, found to be false. Then came another claiming the COVID-19 vaccines are intended to depopulate and eliminate Africans, which was also found to be false. And another claim stating that the vaccine Remdesivir has been restricted to only Africans in order to produce genetically modified human beings was also false.

It was also observed that the vaccine infodemic was not only a racial issue as claims against religious groups were also included. Conspiracy theories that were rampant on the onset included one purporting that Bill Gates was involved in a vaccine presentation to the CIA that was meant to control the central brain of religious fanatics, and was yet found to be false. 

It was not until the actual recent discovery of vaccines by some pharmaceutical companies that the false narrative of side effects and medium of administering the vaccines started being pushed strongly across media spaces, all of which were again, found to be false. Oblivious to what the obsession and association with penis-related COVID-19 discussion was, Dubawa found penis enlargement and injection of the vaccine through the penis to be the false side effects and medium of administering the vaccine, respectively, being circulated. 

Some COVID-19 treatment drugs such as Covifor were also being falsely circulated as vaccines. 

Nonetheless, among the many purported availability of vaccines, Moderna was confirmed to be effective against the virus and awaiting final approval, and, the only approved WHO recommended vaccine thus far is Comirnaty. 

It is again verified that claims stating Bill Gates has said no mass gatherings until everyone is vaccinated is false, and among the many false claims convincing people that the vaccine is mandatory for everyone. 

While concerns and apprehensions about COVID-19 vaccines are valid and well expected for a new virus, it is no justification to incite public unrest by misinforming others with one’s perceived knowledge and uncertainties. When unsure, one is expected to simply verify from authorised sources before sharing. 

Maxine Gloria Danso is a Senior Researcher with Dubawa Ghana. Maxine has previously worked as a Research Assistant engaging in some notable communication research projects in Ghana, having completed a Master of Philosophy programme in Communication Studies at the University of Ghana, with specialisation in journalism, public relations and advertising. She also holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and French from the University of Ghana, with a University Diploma in French Studies from Université Rennes 2 in France. Maxine contributes to the team by drawing from her knowledge and research experience in media studies.

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