By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
It may seem counterintuitive, but the best way to deal with COVID-19 vaccine misinformation is not to engage.
That’s the word from Chatham-Kent Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Colby regarding social media anti-vaxxer conspiracy theories.
The doctor shared the insight with the Chatham-Kent health board at its regular monthly meeting, where he outlined findings from the U.S.-based Centre for Countering Digital Hate.
Data from the centre indicates 75 per cent of vaccine disinformation on social media – designed to create doubt – stems from only 12 individuals.
The centre discovered the people behind the disinformation campaigns were benefitting financially from a large number of online followers, being paid for the likes they receive, as well as from selling health-related products.
According to Colby, vaccine disinformation campaigns tend to have three prongs.
The anti-vaxxing propaganda machine purports COVID-19 is not dangerous, vaccines are dangerous, and lastly that you can’t trust doctors or scientists.
Colby said it’s “surprising” the number of people who choose to believe these theories.
He said local public health employees have faced some “fairly intense complaints” throughout the pandemic.
According to Colby, the information being dispensed by the scientific community is based on 100 years of evidence.
It’s not about people’s rights, he explained.
“It’s not about freedom of speech,” Colby said, adding it’s about stopping the spread of misinformation that leads to vaccine hesitancy.
Colby also reported on Chatham-Kent’s vaccine effort, adding the municipality is nearing the halfway mark of immunizing residents aged 16 and up with a first dose, with nearly 90 per cent of the those over the age 65, having had the jab.
The amount of vaccine funnelling towards Chatham-Kent is on the increase, Colby said, as the temporary diversion of shipments to cover off Ontario COVID-19 hotspots is over.
“Our allocations have doubled this week,” Colby said, adding the number of vaccines given locally will continue to accelerate.
Eventually, Colby said, the mass vaccination centre at the Bradley Centre will close and the shot will be distributed through the traditional methods by way pharmacies and doctor’s offices.