Editorial comment – Addressing misinformation

The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health, Dr James Fong during a Covid-19 update address. . Picture: ATU RASEA/FILE

The permanent secretary for Health and Medical Services Ministry Dr James Fong has made no bones about the need to fight what he terms is misinformation.

The wide circulation of misinformation regarding the COVID-19 vaccine, he insists, has led to poor compliance by people in getting vaccinated.

Misinformation, he said, was now a major problem for the ministry.

“Misinformation is now causing two big problems for us, first is the poor compliance to vaccination, second is denial resulting in very late engagement with medical authorities despite severe symptoms,” he said.

On Wednesday, Dr Fong, in his national address, said sadly, many social media companies such as Facebook provided the platform for lies and misinformation about vaccines to spread faster than facts.

“So it is up to us to get the truth about vaccines –– and the proven protection they provide –– into the public domain and in front of those who need to hear that message most of all,” he said.

This is where the dissemination of information is critically important. Unfortunately we have faltered along the way. The dissemination of information has

not been consistent. Consistency in delivery is a critical element in creating awareness, attracting attention, and nurturing a following among the masses.

Then it follows that there must be a strategic approach that embraces every available platform for the dissemination of important information that will attract attention and empower people.

Then there is the element that deals with nurturing ownership of the war against the pandemic. We must be part of the war. We must take control of our future. We must stand up to be counted. We must be engaged.

“Not everyone will be vaccinated just because I recommend it, I know that,” Dr Fong said.

“Some people place their highest trust in those around them, those in their communities, those at the dinner table with them, those they’ve grown up with and known their entire lives. By telling someone you love why you have been vaccinated and why they should too, you could be the voice that inspires them to be protected. You may well be better placed than any doctor to save their life and ease the strain of this outbreak of our healthcare system.”

Our numbers are out of control. Community transmission is at a frightening level. The figures are a major concern. Every day is gloomy. We can only hope that this does not breed a no care attitude or complacency.

In the face of all this, the people need reassurance as well. Again, let’s take the front foot please, today! Let’s understand the virus, how it spreads, and how we can keep it at bay. Let’s keep our loved ones away from ending up in hospital in a serious condition. Let’s do the little things that matter. So stay home if you can. Wear a mask properly if you have to go out in public. Keep good physical distancing, and be proactive, treat everyone as a possible carrier and stay safe.

Carry a hand sanitiser if you can, and if you don’t have that, do not touch your face until you have been able to wash your hands with soap and water. Again, we acknowledge all our frontliners who are working under very stressful conditions. Thank you for what you do daily and for the sacrifices. Let’s do this Fiji! Together.

Advise a loved one. Remind them. Keep them safe! Listen to our health experts. Please

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