On 16 July 2021, US President Joe Biden slammed Facebook for supposedly “killing people” by letting vaccine hoaxes proliferate on the platform. As a result, the chief of state believes that the misinformation on the social media site is hurting America’s fight against the pandemic.
In a response posted a day after Biden’s statement, Facebook maintained that vaccine hesitancy dropped by 50% on the platform.
“This is the largest survey of its kind, with over 70 million total responses, and more than 170,000 responses daily across more than 200 countries and territories. For people in the US on Facebook, vaccine hesitancy has declined by 50%; and they are becoming more accepting of vaccines every day,” wrote Guy Rosen, Facebook’s Vice President of Integrity.
The blog post went on to emphasise that Facebook is ramping up vaccination efforts not just in the US, but in the United Kingdom and Canada as well. However, it did not mention any initiatives to do the same elsewhere.
In Asia, misleading information about vaccines is stopping people from being inoculated. Bloomberg reported that millions of citizens living in Southeast Asian COVID-19 hotspots such as Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines are deeply affected by deceptive vaccination content on social media. These questionable posts come from local pages and American anti-vaccination groups online.
False information spread by such communities is driving vaccine hesitancy in the region, consequently slowing down inoculation progress in Asia and the global effort to end the pandemic. United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications Melissa Fleming lamented the rise in COVID-19-related falsehoods.
“It is a polluted media landscape. This infodemic has shifted now, and the focus is misinformation on vaccines. It’s about instilling fear in people,” said Fleming in Foreign Policy’s digital forum on addressing vaccine misinformation.
Statistics from YouGov shows that Thailand’s vaccine confidence has been falling. The nation reached its peak on 3 January 2021 at 83%, then declined to an all-time low at 60% on 14 March 2021. Though the rate changed to 70% on 4 July, it is a downgrade from the 76% output on 23 May.
Vaccine scepticism plague Thailand as its administration rolls out China’s Sinovac vaccine and the British-Swedish AstraZeneca jab. Health experts believe that Thailanders’ distrust is influenced by online misinformation and adverse effects of the vaccines.
Meanwhile, Filipinos’ willingness to get vaccinated drastically increased from 56% recorded on 11 April to its highest point: 82% on 5 July. As of 16 July, the Philippines has fully vaccinated 3.91% of its 111 million residents and jabbed the first dose to 5.38% of Filipinos.
However, a Pulse Asia survey conducted among 2,400 respondents in the country found that 36% of participants are still hesitant to get inoculated. Worries surrounding safety and efficacy prevent unwilling Filipinos from being vaccinated.
Pulse Asia added that hearing about peers and loved ones being safely vaccinated can make hesitant Filipinos change their minds about the vaccine.
In Singapore, the government has also faced vaccine resistance from elderly aged 70 and above. With the recent rise in cases, the government urged its citizens to get their vaccination done, especially for those above 70 years of age. This will help combat the seriousness of their infections, if they do get infected with COVID-19 virus.
Written by Sophia Lopez