Coronavirus in the Philippines: misinformation and fake news flood social networks from the hand of anti-vaccines

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The number of people following anti-vaccine groups or pages on Facebook jumped from 190,000 to around 500,000, according to the social media analytics tool CrowdTangle.

In Philippines, misinformation that spreads through social media and reaching millions of low-income people for free, led large numbers of citizens to reject the vaccine against polio and other deadly diseases.

Vaccination of children in the archipelago went from 87% in 2014 to 68% in 2019, the year in which it suffered a measles epidemic and the reappearance of polio.

This disaffection is, to a large extent, linked to a controversy surrounding Dengvaxia, the world’s first vaccine against dengue, which in 2017 had been withdrawn after its manufacturer, the French group Sanofi, reveal that it could aggravate symptoms in people not previously infected with the virus.

Experts also point out that false information about vaccines circulating on social media has undermined people’s trust.

In Tarlac, to the north, the nurse Reeza Patriarca noted the consequences of false information disclosed on Facebook about the death of five people after an unspecified vaccination.

Shared thousands of times, these posts appeared in august following the resumption of a WHO-supported polio vaccination campaign.

This false information reached the neighboring city of San José del Monte, dissuading large numbers of residents from getting a free flu vaccine.

The denials of the Ministry of Health they did not convince the population.

“Some believed the explanation (from the government), others did not,” explains this 27-year-old nurse.

Rosanna Robianes, a health sector professional, states that many older people stopped getting vaccinated.

“They said it is due to Facebook, where a publication circulates according to which vaccinated people in Tarlac died“, he assures.

Interest in anti-vaccine information increased during the covid-19 pandemic.

In the Philippines, the number of people who follow anti-vaccine groups or pages on Facebook went from 190,000 to around 500,000, according to the social media analytics tool CrowdTangle.

About 8 million reactions, comments and shared content were recorded since the outbreak of the epidemic.

April Villa, 40 years old and mother of two children in the northern province of Laguna, is part of the anti-vaccines.

Follow the group on Facebook “No to vaccines- Philippines”, created in July and that exceeds 2,000 members.

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