‘Fake news’ about Covid-19 vaccine has become second pandemic, says Red Cross chief

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This second pandemic: “fake news” on these vaccines.

Francesco Rocca, president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, told a virtual briefing at the United Nations Association of Correspondents on Monday that governments and institutions must implement measures to combat growing mistrust and disinformation.

“To defeat Covid-19, we must also defeat the parallel pandemic of distrust that has consistently hampered our collective response to this disease, and which could undermine our common ability to vaccinate against it,” he said.

The head of the world’s largest humanitarian aid network said his organization shared “the sense of relief and optimism” that developments in Covid-19 vaccines are bringing. But governments and institutions “must build trust in communities” where disinformation has taken root, he added.

There is growing hesitation about vaccines around the world, especially the Covid-19 vaccine, Rocca said. He cited a study from Johns Hopkins University in 67 countries, which found that vaccine acceptance declined significantly between July and October of this year.

Distrust is also growing around other health measures

At the same time, mistrust is growing around other public health interventions that must continue during the pandemic.

“This high level of mistrust has been evident from the very beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic and has clearly facilitated the transmission of the virus at all levels,” he said.

The most obvious example, he added, was the number of people in the Western world who did not want to wear face masks. Yet, he said, mistrust and misinformation is a global problem.

“It’s not just a matter of mistrust. It’s a question of information, ”said Rocca. “As surprising as it may sound, there are still communities around the world that are unaware of the pandemic. ”

These communities are generally vulnerable and marginalized, living beyond the reach of typical communication channels, he said. He gave the example of Pakistan, citing a survey by the federation which revealed that 10% of those questioned were unaware of Covid-19.

“We believe that the massive coordinated effort that will be required to deploy the Covid vaccine fairly must be accompanied by equally massive efforts to proactively build and protect trust,” Rocca said.

Rocca’s comments echoed the words of scientists around the world.

British scientists last month warned the UK may not meet the vaccination threshold to protect the community due to misinformation, mistrust and public reluctance to take a coronavirus vaccine.

CNN’s Zamira Rahim contributed to this report.

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