Over 800 vaccine disinformation posts reported by HSE to social media networks

More than 800 messages containing misinformation or potentially harmful to human health have been reported by the HSE on social media since February.

The deputy chief medical officer called on people not to trust “unsubstantiated information” about the Covid-19 vaccine and warned that “inaccurate or misleading” information about the pandemic was still spreading online.

According to the Ministry of Health, 1,386 other people have been diagnosed with Covid-19.

There are 106 people hospitalized with the disease, 22 of whom are in intensive care.

In a statement released Friday, Dr Ronan Glynn warned that false information about coronavirus vaccines, which began to spread even before the vaccines were developed, was undermining vaccination efforts in many countries, “extending pandemic and putting lives at risk ”.

“We can all together help stop the spread of disinformation,” said Dr Glynn. “Remember, not all social media posts are reliable or accurate – if you’re unsure, don’t share.”

Acceptance of vaccines in Ireland is generally very high – an Amárach opinion poll conducted last week showed that 81% of participants under 35, who were not yet vaccinated, said they would get the vaccine next week if offered.

More than 66% of the Irish population are now fully vaccinated, while over 80% are partially vaccinated, according to the Health Service Executive.

However, there are still concerns that some young people, who can now register for the vaccine, may be skeptical about the safety of the Covid-19 vaccination because of the material they have read online.

More than 800 social media posts “potentially harmful to people’s health or deliberately containing misinformation on a range of health topics, including vaccines,” have been reported by the HSE to social media since February, said a spokesperson for HSE.

Multilingual campaign

Measures were also being rolled out to ensure these high rates continued among communities deemed more reluctant to get the jab based on international data, she said.

These include a multilingual advertising campaign that the HSE runs on digital audio platforms such as TuneIn and Spotify to ensure that the Irish immigrant community, which may be more susceptible to misinformation due to language barriers, receives guidance reliable health care providers, she said.

“Dynamic audio allows us to select the language setting on a person’s phone to play an appropriate announcement,” she said. “Polish advertisements are the most frequently heard to date. We will continue to monitor the performance of the available languages. Radio advertisements are also broadcast on community radios in Italian, Spanish, French, Polish, Punjabi, Urdu and Russian.

The #ForUsAll campaign, launched in May to provide information on vaccine deployment via social media, targets young people and encourages them to “be part of the greatest social movement of our time,” the spokesperson said. of HSE. The Covid-19 Vaccine Community Network, which includes GAA, faith groups and health workers, also helps build confidence in the vaccine, she said.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health warned of the “infodemic” occurring in tandem with the pandemic and said the government was working with public health doctors to tackle disinformation through “various channels” , including National Public Health Emergency Team (Nphet) press briefings, media interviews and content on its own social media channels.

The Sci Comm Collective, a network of young scientists and doctors, was also created to “inspire and empower” young people on how to live safely during the pandemic via posts on Instagram and TikTok, he said. . The collective website features videos from a number of college students and recent graduates offering advice and guidance on the Covid-19 virus, the vaccine, and how to safely socialize during the pandemic.

Professor Philip Nolan, Chairman of the NPHET Epidemiological Modeling Advisory Group. File photo: Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin

Collective immunity

Earlier on Friday, Nphet official Professor Philip Nolan warned that “collective immunity” was an abstract concept, and that there was no “magic” number to reach at which point “everything goes back to normal “.

Speaking on RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland show, Professor Nolan said herd immunity was a useful concept, but hitting a figure of 85% wouldn’t mean life could get back to normal.

High levels of vaccination had to be achieved before any “non-pharmaceutical” restrictions could be relaxed, he said.

In the meantime, everyone, as a society, should continue to play their part. A gradual reduction in other restrictions could be considered as vaccination levels increased, he said.

Professor Nolan warned of what had happened recently in Scotland, where the number of cases rose and then fell. There were always reasons to be optimistic and not to focus on the “grim possibilities”, but it was not inevitable that a specific trajectory would occur, he added.

What happened next depended on “what we do for the next few weeks.”

“The sequence of figures depends on us. The good news is that the vaccine gives us great protection, ”he said.

Professor Nolan called on the public to “get your vaccine when it’s offered” as the Delta variant would remain a significant threat for weeks to come.

Some vaccinated people “felt bulletproof inappropriately,” he said, adding that even though the vaccine offered protection, the virus could still be transmitted. “We cannot let the disease break out. “

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