Vaccination campaigns are wars against fake news

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Walquiria da Silva Pedra Parreira, a second year medical student in Brazil, at Centro Universitário de Valença. 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.


2020 was the year of fear, of disbelief, but also of hope. In the midst of a pandemic that shook the structures of an extremely globalized planet, we closed the doors and isolated ourselves.

But while airports closed gates to people everywhere, scientists were holding hands. And, in the race against the clock, the fruit of the prayers of an entire planet took place in record time.

Vaccines are, par excellence, the crystallization of scientific work in favor of a healthier and less unequal world, they are the hope and the bet to fight, not only to COVID, but to a series of other diseases.

And when it started to prove its effectiveness, the world then seemed to be able to breathe relieved, hoping that we would finally reach the resolution of this global crisis.

But the feeling aroused in the hearts of millions of people around the world was not exactly relief. As fast as the virus reached us, another evil also made its way, taking advantage of fear and insecurity: misinformation.

 As research and development for various vaccines followed at a pace never seen before in the history of the planet, waves of mistrust towards them reached peaks around the planet. Mistrust about the efficacy and the need for vaccination grew, driven by fake news and conspiracy theories that appeared and were dispersed in the most diverse social networks, reaching proportions only surpassed by the virus itself.

Government entities and scientists then fought not only against the virus, but waged a war against fake news and conspiracy theories, seductive enough to put vaccination campaigns in check, risking anti-vaccine movements gaining enough engagement to thwart global efforts for the containment and elimination of the virus, affecting vaccination coverage campaigns around the world and in particular, especially in those countries that were already suffering from the spread of fake news or discrediting the effectiveness of vaccines by government authorities, such as the case of Brazil and the USA .

And it is on social networks that scientists and health professionals are waging this new war, not against the virus, but against the fertile terrain that these platforms represent for the development of information that reinforces a view against vaccination, reinforcing common fears among the population that has partially or totally doubts about the safety and efficacy of vaccines, by creating spirals of fear aimed at side effects and the idea of ​​global domination and control by companies and governments.

These factors add up and put at risk not only the immunization of healthy people, but they put at risk those who have comorbidities and those who, for some reason, will not be able to get vaccinated, making the logistics of the campaigns even more complex, which it will require an extreme joint effort by health professionals and governments to achieve percentages of vaccines within the safety levels established by vaccination campaigns.

We fight the virus, but it is the humans that we need to conquer to win.

References

Hortal M, Di Fabio JL. Rechazo y gestión en vacunaciones: sus claroscuros [Vaccine rejection and vaccination management: the grey areasRecusa vacinal e gestão da imunização: nuances e contrastes]. Rev Panam Salud Publica. 2019;43:e54. Published 2019 Jun 7. doi:10.26633/RPSP.2019.54 . access on  25  Jan.  2021.  

MASSARANI, Luisa; LEAL, Tatiane; WALTZ, Igor. O debate sobre vacinas em redes sociais: uma análise exploratória dos links com maior engajamento. Cad. Saúde Pública,  Rio de Janeiro ,  v. 36, supl. 2,  e00148319,    2020 .   Available from <http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0102-311X2020001405001&lng=en&nrm=iso&gt;. access on  25  Jan.  2021.  Epub Aug 31, 2020.  https://doi.org/10.1590/0102-311×00148319.

About the author

Walquiria da Silva Pedra Parreira is a second year medical student in Brazil, at Centro Universitário de Valença.

She is a member of IFMSA BRAZIL, where is the local Director of Research and Publication and Regional Assistant in the National Scientific Team in the 2020/2021 management.

She has a passion for Genetics, Infectology and Neurology and is a fierce supporter of Sustainable Development.

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