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Weekly newsletter of @momblogger - Issue #9

Weekly newsletter of @momblogger
Weekly newsletter of @momblogger
Misinformation to blame for vaccine hesitancy. In a report from Philstar, “a health official on Wednesday attributed false information about COVID-19 vaccines as among reasons why the elderly are hesitant to get the jabs, with only a small number of the priority group fully inoculated.” Here is a curation of articles on conspiracy theories, and vaccine misinformation.

The Philippines has anti-vax conspiracy theorists too
Conspiracy theories like QAnon may have trouble taking root in Southeast Asia but anti-vaccine propaganda has been a big factor in hesitancy across the region, according to a Bloomberg report, where the Philippines gets a special mention:
'Fake news' part of why elderly won't get COVID-19 jabs — DOH
'Fake news' part of why elderly won't get COVID-19 jabs — DOH | Philstar.com
Vaccine Misinformation Insights Report: June
During June, English-language media coverage of vaccines largely revolved around vaccine dose sharing and patent waiver debates as the Biden administration moved to buy and distribute 500 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine to poorer countries.
Vaccine Misinformation Insights Report: June - First Draft
Scientific uncertainty about Delta and Lambda variants fuels misinformation
This week, the world crossed another grim milestone: At least 4 million people have died because of Covid-19. The rise of new variants — some potentially more dangerous than before — is being met with misinformation that is being adapted to an evolving situation. 
Recent news coverage of the pandemic has focused heavily on variants, particularly the highly contagious Delta strain first identified in India. Delta has rapidly become dominant in the US, according to new data published this week. And Delta was already the subject of its own brand of misinformation — for example, one Instagram post identified by PolitiFact cites UK mortality data to falsely claim that Delta is “approximately 19 times less deadly” than other variants. 
Health experts told PolitiFact that lower mortality rates in the UK are because of high vaccination levels. A Public Health England spokesperson also told PolitiFact that it’s too early to assess the Delta variant’s true mortality rate. The misinformation around Delta is a reminder of the dilemma that public health officials face when trying to effectively communicate scientific uncertainty while attempting to close knowledge gaps that spawn misinformation.
Consider also the Lambda variant first detected in late 2020 in Peru. The World Health Organization has deemed it a “variant of interest,” shy of the “variant of concern” label applied to Delta and three older variants. While two microbiologists told The New York Times that Lambda poses no cause for alarm, one of them said that fear over the variant stems in part from Latin America’s “limited capacity” to do the kind of genomic testing needed to better understand it. 
But the mere act of reporting on Lambda has prompted comments from high-profile conspiracy theorists, including Robby Starbuck, a conservative activist who is running for Congress in Tennessee. In a tweet this week that was shared at least 2,100 times, Starbuck said, “I don’t care if the government calls it the Lambda variant, the Delta variant, the RobbyKiller variant or anything else. These fear tactics are control schemes and I refuse to give them more control.”
The misinformation-fueled hostility toward scientists and public health officials as they try to keep up with an ever-evolving pandemic could have long-term consequences. At a recent National Academies of Medicine event, Beatriz Grinsztejn, an infectious diseases physician and researcher in Brazil, said the anti-science environment there is accelerating “brain drain” — the emigration of more educated people in search of a better life. — First Draft staff (via First Draft newsletter) Sign up for their email
Baseless claims about mRNA vaccines and miscarriages
There is no evidence that mRNA Covid-19 vaccines cause reproduction or fertility issues, but baseless claims that the vaccines are causing miscarriages are once again being spread on social media. While the claims are not backed up by any evidence, the absence of authoritative data on the topic has created a data deficit around fertility and the safety of mRNA vaccines. 
Robert Malone, a scientist and prominent Covid-19-vaccine skeptic who is known for his role in contributing to the development of mRNA vaccine technology, said on Twitter yesterday that he continues to hear “again and again” about “'heavy flow’ as a vaccine side effect.” “The thing is, ‘heavy flow’ can actually be occult spontaneous abortion,” he claimed in a tweet shared at least 3,000 times. Malone claimed this adverse effect had been overlooked by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration. 
While there are reports of some women experiencing short-term changes in menstruation after getting vaccinated, there is no evidence that Covid-19 vaccines affect fertility. This unproven narrative appears to originate from a debunked rumor stemming from the misinterpretation of data collected by the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). VAERS reports are voluntary and not confirmed. 
 The World Health Organization and the CDC have said that both mRNA-based vaccines — Pfizer and Moderna — are safe for pregnant women. And in June, the New England Journal of Medicine published a preliminary study of 35,000 participants that found no “obvious safety signals” for pregnant women who had received mRNA vaccines. 
 The CDC and the study’s authors have acknowledged that available data on the topic remains limited and requires further research. This data deficit can present a problem for those attempting to debunk the claims. “[T]he infertility myth is particularly hard to debunk because it’s hard to disprove a negative — just because something scary hasn’t yet happened, people reason, doesn’t mean that it won’t,” Professor Eve Feinberg of Northwestern University has argued. 
 Some conspiracy theorists, such as Alex JonesMike Adams and DeAnna Lorraine, have also recently cited the New England Journal of Medicine study to falsely claim it concluded that “82% of Pregnant Women in Study Had Miscarriage.” These videos have racked up tens of thousands of views on sites such as Bitchute and Rumble, and are now being shared on Twitter, Facebook and more mainstream social media platforms. — Keenan Chen (via First Draft Email newsletter . Sign up using the link below.
How foreign anti-vaccine narratives reached West African communities online
Foreign narratives and conspiracy theories — initially developed and popularized in North America — are taking hold in West Africa, further eroding trust in institutions in the region. Sources operating outside West Africa have been driving these narratives. While they are being spread in part by actors employing sophisticated amplification techniques, this should not be taken as evidence of “foreign interference.” Determining the existence of “foreign interference” is a complex undertaking outside the scope of this report. Instead, this report highlights the narratives filtering through West Africa and demonstrates the ways in which they spread. 
Foreign anti-vaccine disinformation spreads to West Africa
Challenging COVID-19 Vaccine Misinformation
The University of Guelph, including us, supports freedom of expression. However, as scientists and academics we also have a responsibility to counter misinformation, particularly when the misinformation causes harm. A high rate of vaccine acceptance is essential for prevention of SARS-CoV-2 disease and deaths, and for a return to normalcy. In particular, given the high transmissibility of recent variants, very high vaccination rates among people eligible for vaccination are critical. We are very concerned that people who are not seeking vaccination because of misinformation will suffer ill effects from SARSCoV-2 infection, will infect others, and will slow the return to a more normal life. 
Challenging COVID-19 Vaccine Misinformation | Worms & Germs Blog
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Weekly newsletter of @momblogger
Weekly newsletter of @momblogger

Social media practitioner ; Columnist, Sunday Business &IT Manila Times ; Budding coffee grower #PhilippineCoffee; podcasting at anchor.fm/momblogger

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