The Pandora Box of misinformation surrounding the Covid-19 vaccination drive

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Manali Sarkar, a 2nd year MBBS student at MGM Medical College, Navi Mumbai. She is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


Hidden behind the veil of the Covid-19 pandemic, lies the maleficence of misinformation. This misinformation propagated via digital means impeded in successfully controlling and managing the pestilence. Now this “digital infodemic”[1] has spread its tentacles in the vaccination campaign orchestrated in many countries.

This infodemic was nurtured by the anti-vaccination (anti-vax) community in the fertile grounds of social networking sites. A study showed that although anti-vaccination groups are few in number, they are much more effective in spreading misinformation among others as compared to their pro-vaccination counterparts[2]. These anti-vaccination groups spread conspiracy theories detailing how Bill Gates orchestrated the pandemic to roll out a microchip containing vaccine which will be activated by 5G and track every citizen of the world[3]. These outlandish allegations found sustenance in our current world of fear and uncertainty.

There has been a meteoric rise in popularity of certain self-proclaimed experts who spend their time manufacturing incorrect information and disseminating it to the public.[4]  Now, irrespective of their qualification every Tom, Dick, and Harry has an opinion about the vaccination. This has led to an overall drop in the number of people willing to be vaccinated. A study conducted by Pew research collecting data from May and September 2020 found that there was a 21% drop from May to September 2020 among US citizens eager to be vaccinated.[5]

The vaccine misinformation has also taken root in healthcare professionals leading to a multitude of adversity in vaccination drives. In a Kansas county health department, all 4 nurses declined to give the vaccine. [6] In an age of vaccine scarcity, a Wisconsin pharmacist deliberately destroyed more than 500 doses.[7]In India vaccine hesitance was deemed to be the reason for the low turnout. [8]


[1] Working together to tackle the “infodemic” [Internet]. World Health Organization. World Health Organization; 2020. Available from: https://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/Health-systems/digital-health/news/news/2020/6/working-together-to-tackle-the-infodemic

[2] Johnson NF, Velásquez N, Restrepo NJ, Leahy R, Gabriel N, Oud SE, et al. The online competition between pro- and anti-vaccination views [Internet]. Nature News. Nature Publishing Group; 2020 [cited 2021Jan25]. Available from: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-020-2281-1

[3] Evstatieva M. Anatomy of A COVID-19 Conspiracy Theory [Internet]. NPR. NPR; 2020 [cited 2021Jan25]. Available from: https://www.npr.org/2020/07/10/889037310/anatomy-of-a-covid-19-conspiracy-theory

[4] Ketchell M. Now everyone’s a statistician. Here’s what armchair COVID experts are getting wrong [Internet]. The Conversation. 2021 [cited 25 January 2021]. Available from: https://theconversation.com/now-everyones-a-statistician-heres-what-armchair-covid-experts-are-getting-wrong-144494

[5]  Tyson A, Johnson C, Funk C. U.S. Public Now Divided Over Whether To Get COVID-19 Vaccine [Internet]. Pew Research Center Science & Society. 2021 [cited 25 January 2021]. Available from: https://www.pewresearch.org/science/2020/09/17/u-s-public-now-divided-over-whether-to-get-covid-19-vaccine/

[6] Meisenzahl M. All 4 nurses in a Kansas county’s health department refused to give out COVID-19 vaccines [Internet]. Business Insider. 2021 [cited 25 January 2021]. Available from: https://www.businessinsider.in/science/news/all-4-nurses-in-a-kansas-countys-health-department-refused-to-give-out-covid-19-vaccines/articleshow/80334625.cms

[7] Baker I, Salcedo A. Wisconsin pharmacist who ‘intentionally’ spoiled more than 500 vaccine doses is arrested, police say [Internet]. The Washington Post. 2021 [cited 25 January 2021]. Available from: https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/12/31/covid-vaccines-destroyed-wisconsin-hospital/

[8] Awasthi P. Hesitancy to take Covid-19 vaccine reason for low turnout in India [Internet]. @businessline. The Hindu BusinessLine; 2021 [cited 2021Jan25]. Available from: https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/news/covid-19-vaccine-hesitancy-responsible-for-low-turnout-in-india/article33615039.ece

About the author

Manali Sarkar is a 2nd year MBBS student at MGM Medical College, Navi Mumbai. As a volunteer for MSAI, she had the opportunity to talk to various people (patient and healthcare professionals included) who would discuss such sensitive issues and the response among them would widely differ. Hence to highlight these varied responses and encourage a healthy debate among people of various nations, age, gender and race she has submitted this article to IFMSA

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