Journalists should help dispel myths and misconceptions around Covid-19 vaccines and support the immunisation programme rolled out by the Government, as the misconceptions are causing unnecessary alarm and despondency.
The misconceptions need to be tackled to maintain public confidence in the vaccination programme.
Zimbabwe is so far ranked the 5th best African country in managing Covid-19 vaccination, and second best in mainland Africa with the small island states generally doing very well, and 68th in the world.
In a recent presentation during a workshop on Covid-19 access to information organised by Vendors Initiative for Social and Economic Transformation (VISET), media content expert Mr Givemore Chipere said the informative role of the media was crucial given the rising level of misinformation about vaccination.
The workshop, brought together journalists from across the country, Government officials, youth leaders, local authorities and others on the frontline of the response to Covid-19.
Mr Chipere was commenting on an article that widely circulated on online platforms this week claiming that those vaccinated would die in two years, another one of the wild bits of fake news circulated by the anti-vaxers who tend to be extreme right-wingers who see science as a conspiracy.
“We are in a serious misinformation crisis on vaccination,” he said. “Take for instance the article that widely circulated this week to the effect that all those vaccinated will die in two years.
“This is a message that is a major blow to Government efforts of reaching herd immunity in the shortest period possible. And in a crisis like this, people get scared; they seek information to stay safe. At the same time, a lot of rumours and half-truths get spread around.
That is why we see false messages and videos circulating on social media and unfounded theories about the effects of being vaccinated and how the virus is transmitted.
“All this misinformation is deadly. We’re facing not only a health crisis, but potentially, an information crisis.”
Mr Chipere urged journalists to play a huge role in circulating correct information and influence public behaviour on vaccination.
He said Covid-19 was a global crisis that had spread throughout the world at a dangerously fast pace.
Mr Chipere said much of the harmful content had been generated from unregistered online platforms which purport to advocate citizen journalism.
“Online health-related misinformation, which means health-related false and inaccurate information, has significantly harmed our daily life,” he said. Harare City Council head of corporate communications Mr Michael Chideme said content from untrusted sources would discourage many people from taking vaccines, if left unchecked.