“Fake news” over Covid-19 vaccination has become a second pandemic, says Red Cross leader

This is the second pandemic: “fake news” about these vaccines.

Francesco Rocca, president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said in a virtual briefing to the UN Correspondents Association on Monday that governments and institutions need to take action to combat growing mistrust and misinformation.

“To defeat Covid-19, we also need to overcome the parallel mistrust epidemic that has consistently hampered our collective response to the disease and that could undermine our common vaccination capacity,” he said.

The head of the world’s largest humanitarian aid network said his organization shares “the feeling of relief and optimism” that the development of Covid-19 vaccines brings. But governments and institutions need to “build trust in communities” where misinformation has taken root, he added.

Hesitations over vaccines, especially the Covid-19 vaccine, are growing worldwide, Rocca said. He cited a study by Johns Hopkins University in 67 countries that found vaccine acceptance dropped significantly between July and October this year.

Distrust is also growing around other health measures

At the same time, mistrust is growing around other public health interventions that need to continue in a pandemic.

“This high level of mistrust has been evident since the start of the Covid-19 epidemic and has clearly facilitated the spread of the virus at all levels,” he said.

The most obvious example, he added, is how many people in the Western world refused to wear a face mask. Nevertheless, he said distrust and misinformation are global issues.

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

Such communities tend to be vulnerable and marginalized, living outside the reach of typical communication channels, he said. He cited the example of Pakistan, citing a federal survey that found 10% of respondents were unaware of Covid-19.

“We believe that the huge concerted efforts needed to introduce the Covid vaccine fairly need to be coupled with the same huge efforts to proactively build and protect trust,” Rocca said.

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

Last month, British scientists warned that the UK may not reach the vaccination threshold to protect the community due to deception, mistrust and public hesitation to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.

CNN Zamira Rahim contributed to the report.