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Misinformation, a 'cancer' against vaccines for Covid-19

Time to Read: 5 minute
Misinformation a cancer against vaccines for Covid 19
Misinformation a cancer against vaccines for Covid 19
Khushbu Kumari

In California, Latinos have been the hardest hit by the pandemic

America Alpizar, an immigrant from Guerrero, Mexico, is a woman who overcame contagion at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, just when myths, lies, and conspiracy theories caused enormous confusion among the American population.

This woman also beat disinformation. She educated herself on the devastating effects of the pandemic, a disease that nearly took her father's life.

“I remember my dad came on vacation before Thanksgiving in 2020,” said America, a cosmetics saleswoman and housekeeper in Los Angeles. “He almost died three times and ended up in a wheelchair.”

Alfonso Alpizar, 74, returned to Mexico and is still undergoing rehabilitation. He tries to regain feeling in his feet so he can walk again. In those days he had no vaccinations, but now he has already received two boosters of the Pfizer vaccine.

“As soon as the vaccines were available, we didn't hesitate to protect ourselves,” said America, a 47-year-old single mother. She didn't think twice about getting her children Ludovica, 21, and Casper, 6, vaccinated.

“I always heard the lie that they wanted to put a chip on people or that the government wanted to control us,” he recalled. “I never believed those things. I looked for the right information in the right places and with health professionals.”

America expressed that education is the best tool to overcome the lies spread throughout the vaccine pandemic.

Myths and lies rooted in the mind

Despite the outstanding efforts of public health authorities, doctors and experts, myths and lies about COVID-19 vaccines still prevail and have not been eradicated.

For more than two years, the power of disinformation has been enormous.

“It is a very serious situation,” Dr. Edward Jones-López, assistant professor of clinical medicine at the USC Keck Medical Center, told La Opinion. “The problem is not only related to Covid-19, but has spread to other vaccines and diseases.”

In a single word, Dr. Jones-López catalogs the current problem of disinformation as a “cancer”.

“I would use the word 'cancer' because misinformation is difficult to control or remedy,” he says. “It's at the individual level that those barriers in people's minds need to be overcome.”

In many people there are already deeply rooted convictions. It is almost impossible to make them change and fight against the misconceptions they have about vaccines and Covid-19. They affect Catholics, Muslims, rich and poor, men and women, Republicans and Democrats.

“It's a global problem,” added Dr. Jones-López. “People don't react until a tragedy happens around their family.”

More deaths among Latinos, but the least want to be vaccinated

The pandemic is not over. During the summer of 2022, almost 1.1 million people lost their lives to Covid-19, of which some 790,000 were people aged 65 or older. People over the age of 65 represent 16% of the total US population, but account for 75% of all Covid-19 deaths to date.

In California, as of October 31, the state Department of Public Health reported 10.5 million infections, an average of 2,456 per day, and 96,068 deaths.

By a wide margin, the Latino community has been the most affected with 44.5% of all cases and 41,147 deaths, that is, just under half of all deaths in California.

But even knowing the death figures, Latino families have the lowest percentages of vaccination for their children under 17 years of age, unlike other races.

Two men overcame their own unfounded fears

For young adults ages 18-49, Latinos rank slightly above African Americans (64% vs. 61%), but far below Asians and Anglos, in percentages of vaccination.

“I was determined not to get vaccinated; I was slow to believe that the vaccine was to resist the disease,” said Bernardino Gabriel Martinez, originally from Magdalena Teitipac, Oaxaca. “But talking to a doctor, he told me there was nothing to be afraid of.”

“I thought that the vaccine would cause me mental retardation,” said Jorge Gabriel Ignacio Martinez, a countryman from Bernardino. “I also came to believe that if I got vaccinated I would be sterile.”

Those misconceptions about the vaccine were obtained by Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or TikTok.

And although among those over 50 to 64 years of age, the vaccination numbers are similar for everyone today, in this category, Latinos have put the highest share of deaths: 11,121 or 57% of the total.

The same happens with people over 65 years of age: there are already 14,160 deaths among Latinos (44%) for 11,146 Anglo-Saxons (11,146). Only Anglo-Saxon people over 80 years of age exceed Latinos in the number of deaths (16,7908 against 10,275).

Call to high-risk communities

Nationwide, ads promoting Covid-19 vaccines were released targeting communities that have had slow uptake of updated vaccines.

“Don't miss the game. Together we can”, is the message in Spanish, addressed to Latinos, particularly now that the FIFA World Cup in Qatar 2022 is approaching.

“The new ads send an urgent message to communities at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19 that the updated vaccine is the best tool we have against hospitalization and death,” said Sarah Lovenheim, assistant secretary for public affairs at the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

To this, Dr. Ilan Shapiro, medical director of Education for Health and Well-being at Altamed, considered that the myths and lies have not ended, "because unfortunately it took a long time to create the messages to make people aware of the need to get vaccinated and to establish direct communication with the community”.

“We all already know that unvaccinated people are four to five times more likely to be hospitalized and possibly die, and we also already know that fears of side effects and that vaccines were created too quickly weren't true either, so just It must be taken into account that updated vaccines make a big difference between living or dying”

The public health expert said his biggest concern in the coming winter is children and people with chronic health problems.

“We have had enough problems with Covid-19 and it is time that we share the reality that we have vaccines and that we know that having the vaccine is the only way we can stop the pandemic… It is as simple as that.”

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