Unfounded fears of vaccination could hamper progress in stopping COVID-19
Rabat – Morocco’s government is set to launch its vaccination campaign in a “few weeks” according to officials, yet anti vaccination fake news poses a threat. Morocco, like most countries around the world, faces the potential threat of online misinformation and fake news. Misinformation can create confusion and fear around Morocco’s important vaccination campaign.
What’s more, much remains unknown about Morocco’s vaccination campaign as of yet. Despite announcements of an impending national vaccination drive, citizens still do not know what vaccine the government has chosen to administer to millions of Moroccans. The government has sealed distribution and manufacturing agreements with a variety of candidates.
The Chinese vaccine produced by Sinopharm remains the most likely candidate. The vaccine has been provided to over a million Chinese citizens. In a country of nearly 1.4 billion people, the daily caseload is measured in dozens as the government has effectively stopped the spread of the virus. Yet global distrust in China remains, despite its success in fighting the virus.
Across the globe an “anti-vax” movement of people fearful of vaccinations has existed for years. Driven by conspiracy theories, Anti-vaxxers often use misinformation to choose to not vaccinate themselves or their children. This fear of vaccination has led to reductions in vaccinations in many countries, often prompting a resurgence in the disease that the vaccine is meant to stop.
Alleged links between vaccines and autism that have circulated over the past decades have led to new outbreaks of dangerous diseases like measles and polio. While the resurgence of these diseases claim many victims, the vaccines themselves have not been proven to be dangerous at all. In most cases, it is not vaccines, but the fear of vaccines that poses a significant threat to people’s health.
This threat has become so prominent that the WHO labelled anti-vaccination fears as one of the top-10 threats to global health. Misinformation and fake medical news can spread online in minutes, while correcting these theories can take days, weeks or months.
Morocco’s vaccination campaign
Morocco is of course no exception. Ahead of the country’s national vaccination campaign, the threat of people refusing to take the vaccine remains a major concern. Morocco could become a global leader in fighting COVID-19 by distributing vaccines across the world and manufacturing the products at home. Unfounded fears and wild conspiracy theories threaten this potential, however.
The Moroccan government has attempted to stamp out medical misinformation spread online. Several Moroccans have been arrested for spreading fake news on COVID-19 in recent weeks. Yet ahead of Morocco’s vaccination campaign, lingering distrust and fear still constitute a formidable threat to government efforts.
Making the vaccination campaign a success will require renewed efforts from both the government and citizens. Authorities would do well to provide more information about the chosen vaccine and its merits, while citizens can actively combat the spread of misinformation.
Almost anyone has likely received some form of unsolicited medical advice via social media or messenger apps such as WhatsApp. Deleting these messages and making sure not to send them to others can mean citizens provide a valuable service to help stop COVID-19.
Morocco’s vaccination campaign can prevent future lockdowns, revive the economy and save many lives. All it takes is a sense of responsibility and trust in medical experts. Everybody must do her or his part in order to fight misinformation and make Morocco a pioneering country in terms of surpassing other countries in our fight against the pandemic that has cost us so dearly.