As the world was on track to develop and distribute a vaccine for COVID-19, online conspiracy theories started putting doubts in people’s minds about the risks associated with the same.
A recent Johns Hopkins University study of 67 countries found that vaccine acceptance declined significantly in most countries from July to October this year.
India, thankfully, does not have a coordinated anti-vaccination movement like the West. But, while the much-awaited vaccine is almost here, it is vital to build public trust.
Here are five vaccine misinformation stories that are already viral.
#JusticeForSSR #Warriors4SSR #CBI4SSR
These hashtags have kept Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput alive on the internet months after his unfortunate demise. The reason for this isn't the media frenzy we saw on primetime television or filmstars or politicians. It is the result of united efforts of ‘SSRians’ on Facebook groups and pages who came together to fight for the late star from Bihar.
Having a big sale, on-site celebrity, or other event? Be sure to announce it so everybody knows and gets excited about it. Hindi TV news channel News Nation aired a bulletin on Tuesday, 22 June, in which the news anchor misinterpreted the statements made by two individuals in sign language and falsely linked the video to the ongoing investigations by the Uttar Pradesh Police in an alleged religious conversion scam.
After claiming that “lakhs had died from taking allopathic medicines for COVID-19”, another video of self-proclaimed Yoga guru Baba Ramdev has surfaced where he can be seen saying that more than 1,000 doctors died of coronavirus infections despite being fully vaccinated.
The reason behind the hesitancy towards a COVID-19 vaccine is not just online misinformation but also genuine queries that people have and a lack of transparency on the part of the vaccine manufacturers and the government. Despite having thousands of data points proving the vaccine’s safety, a few unanswered questions are creating a data deficit that the purveyors of misinformation are using to their advantage.
Days after reports of people applying cow dung on their body to ward off COVID-19 went viral, BJP MP from Bhopal Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur came out with a claim that drinking gau mutra (cow-urine) of a desi (Indian) cow has prevented her from getting infected with the novel coronavirus.
Doctors and scientists have repeatedly warned against the use of cow dung and cow urine to treat COVID-19.
Despite having his pages and profiles removed by Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, internet doctor Dr Biswaroop Roy Chowdhury continues to spread false and misleading claims on COVID-19, diabetes and vaccines on all the social media platforms.
Online fact-checker, Debabrata Paul started a change.org petition in June 2020 and flagged the virality of Dr Chowdhury’s claims around COVID-19. Shortly after that, Dr Chowdhury’s official social media handles were either suspended or taken down, but that didn’t stop him from getting his message across to his followers.