South Africa’s award-winning scientist, Salim Abdool Karim, on Wednesday condemned the proliferation of misinformation against coronavirus vaccines, saying the inaccurate reports surrounding the jabs should end to successfully help vaccinate the population.President Cyril Ramaphosa said his country had secured 20 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine which is expected to be part of the first batch to be used to vaccinate South Africans in order to create a “herd immunity” against the disease.
While this was not enough to vaccinate the entire 50 million population, the programme to inject the people will be hampered by rampant misinformation being peddled on social media and other fora in the country, according to Karim.
People needed “to stop fear-mongering around the vaccine,” said the scientist, who chairs the country’s Ministerial Advisory Committee on Covid-19.
“There are generally three groups of individuals who are hesitant about taking the vaccines. The first group just don’t know enough about it,” Karim said.
“The second group is concerned as a result of misinformation. It has been told something or read something that does not convey the information accurately.”
He noted that while nobody would be forced to take the vaccines, the people must be given the correct information.
Karim said the third group was made up of those who were deliberately anti-vaccine and this group often ended up spreading the misinformation.
“It is this group which is quite small and uses social media and other platforms to promote their wrong messages,” Karim said.
South Africa is expected to begin rolling out its vaccines this month, using the initial 20 million of Covid-19 doses it has acquired so far.
Karim and Dr. Anthony Fauci from the United States jointly won the 2020 John Maddox Prize for standing up for sound science amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
The award, introduced in 2012 and established by the charitable organisation, Sense About Science, and scientific journal, Nature, honors “individuals who have served to promote sound science and evidence despite hostilities.”