A week ago, the Chief Scientist of WHO Dr Soumya Swaminathan’s statement on the mix and match of vaccines went viral on social media platforms even in Bhutan.
It was twisted and turned on social media. This heightened the apprehensions of those who were unsure of the second dose.
WHO officials later clarified that her comment was referring to those who had already received, for example, a full course of a vaccine series and then they were trying to get additional doses of a vaccine.
The government’s renewed and aggressive vaccination advocacy drive would have been far more effective had it not been for this piece of misinformation.
Our problem is that there are still far too many in the communities who are gullible and vulnerable to believing in such falsehoods. We are exposed to vast media contents but we know not how to consume them.
After leading a team of volunteers to receive Moderna as the second dose, Prime Minister Dr Lotay Tshering spoke for more than two hours to place on record that the vaccine was the best choice among what is available.
A lot of things became clearer on various vaccine-related issues for more than 2,000 people who watched him live on his official social media page as he answered 37 questions.
Despite the difficult conditions ushered in by the heavy monsoon weather, vaccines have reached to the remotest corners of the country.
The vaccines were delivered closest to the settlements across the country at a huge cost – both monetary and physical hardships for the vaccinators.
Herd immunity is the target.
Even if a single person declines to vaccinate because he or she has read some unsubstantiated claims on the internet or social media, it’ll be a massive loss for us individually, and collectively.
Conversely, it will be a gain, a huge one at that.
Notwithstanding the advantages of social media, unfortunately, they are also a major source of misinformation. Education is vitally important. Other ways, it is called media literacy. We need it now more than ever.
The effect of our gossip mongering habit is amplified by social media. It has a larger impact now because of the wider reach, impacting society and even national security, if we don’t achieve herd immunity.
With misinformation persistently making rounds, it has become critical to invest in media literacy and critical thinking skills to not just debunk but pre-bunk fake news.
Bhutanese have to learn to distinguish fact from fiction. For a start, what will help is if one does not know a thing for a fact, don’t share or pass the unfounded information on to another person.
If in doubt, consult not the experts on social media but health experts.