As multiple coronavirus vaccines are now available, like AstraZeneca, Pfizer, CanSino and Sputnik among others, the Swiss government is now facing a new challenge: convincing its population to get vaccinated. Based on a Swiss Broadcasting Corporation survey, the country is facing a high degree of vaccine-scepticism. This is why an informational vaccination campaign has been launched, and different actors are being taken into consideration for its success – among them the anti-vaccination movement that advocates on social media and has a tendency to modify or alterate the public’s opinion on the covid vaccines.
Anti vaxxers and social media
In times of uncertainty, the spread of misinformation is common, as most people are looking for answers and others take advantage of the situation by creating unverified rumors and suspicions. Even though getting vaccinated is still optional in Switzerland, the anti-vaccination movement is using the pandemic as a way to move forward in their political agenda. Like conspiracy theorists, anti-vaxxers tend to distrust the government and science, as they look for information that confirms their beliefs and are likely to share it even if it’s unverified. People on social media platforms contribute to the mistrust in public institutions when sharing their concerns about the future of the covid crisis or the side effects of the vaccine. Their fear isn’t totally irrational: the development of vaccines was indeed accelerated compared to a process that usually takes years. This is why it is so important to rebuild the trust in the institutions by explaining clearly how vaccines are produced, tested, authorized and monitored. As scepticism grows, it is safe to say that the better people understand the stake of the virus, the more they will be will willing to get vaccinated.
What if I’m not vaccinated?
According to an article published in Nature Human Behaviour by Sahil Loomba, it is vital to understand how misinformation impacts individuals differently depending on their socio-demographic group and their use of social media, to design specific awareness campaigns with the purpose of reducing the potential impact of online misinformation. The more unvaccinated individuals circulate, the more positive cases increase, as well as the development of new variants of the virus that can impact others very badly. Getting vaccinated is not a decision that affects one individual only, but the population in general.
It is okay to have questions about the effectiveness of the vaccine, but it is important to know that they have been tested rigorously and have been proven to be safe. The vaccine not only prevents people from developing symptoms and getting seriously ill with Covid-19, but also helps spreading it less and substantially reduce the risk for everybody. The lesser it is spread, the lesser people will be sick and the sooner the pandemic will be over. Getting vaccinated not only benefits one individual in particular, but anyone in contact with them.
Switzerland and Coronavirus
According to Reuters’ Covid-19 tracker, the country is now at a 5% rising peak that translates in 31 infections per 100k people reported in the last seven days. Swiss is facing an increase in the number of positive cases of Covid-19 with an average of 391 reported infections per day. The data published by the Federal Office of Public Health indicates that people with at least one dose represent 52.40% of the population, with 43.25% of them fully vaccinated. The strategy currently implemented is that people already vaccinated are now assigned to the canton in which they live and not the one where they received their first shot.
It is essential to understand how misinformation differentially affects people according to their social background and that groups at high risk of developing severe complications of Covid-19 are more vulnerable to misinformation.