‘Be aware and careful with infodemic’

(Illustration by Sam Bradd/ WHO)

By Jennifer P. Rendon

When does a health appraisal border on spreading an infodemic?

This has been one concern besetting health authorities and governments after almost two years of them trying to quell COVID-19.

The World Health Organizations defines infodemic as too much information including false or misleading information in digital and physical environments during a disease outbreak.

“It causes confusion and risk-taking behaviours that can harm health. It also leads to mistrust in health authorities and undermines the public health response. An infodemic can intensify or lengthen outbreaks when people are unsure about what they need to do to protect their health and the health of people around them,” the WHO added.

The world health agency added that the expansion of digital media exacerbated the spread of all sorts of information.

“With growing digitization – an expansion of social media and internet use – information can spread more rapidly. This can help to more quickly fill information voids but can also amplify harmful messages.”

On Friday, Rep Janette Garin (Iloilo, 1st district) appealed to health experts and media to be more circumspect on spreading COVID-19-related information.

Garin, a former health secretary, appealed to health experts and practitioners to be more careful on their statements after she came across a recent post from “a credible news outlet about a self-proclaimed health expert warning WHO versus COVID-19 booster shots.”

In her statement, Garin said that the so-called doctor said booster shots pose danger to individuals and that despite being vaccinated, some people still get COVID-19.

“Allow me to clarify this. COVID-19 vaccines, like any other vaccine, are not 100% effective. Hindi po ito parang magic potion na kapag naibigay na sa’yo ay hindi ka na dadapuan ng sakit. Ito po ang totoo at paulit-ulit naming sinasabi kasama na ng mga eksperto sa medisina: ang mga COVID-19 vaccines ay binibigyan tayo ng dagdag na proteksyon laban sa malalang epekto ng sakit na dulot ng SARS-CoV2,” she said.

Garin noted that the said expert claimed that the public should not trust booster shots citing that the WHO has announced that vaccines should be reformulated to be effective against the new Covid variants.

“Totoo na kailangan baguhin ang formulation ng mga bakuna dahil yung mga naunang bakuna ay epektibo sa mga naunang variant ng COVID. Ngayong may iba’t ibang variant na, patuloy dapat ang development ng mga bakuna para mas maging epekto ito laban sa mas maraming variant,” she said.

Health experts and practitioners should be more circumspect “at this time when we have a raging pandemic in our midst and we are trying to keep our people safe and our economy afloat,” she added.

“Moreover, I am appealing to our friends from the media to be more responsible about their coverage regarding COVID-19 and vaccines. Please do not allow your institutions to be propagators of infodemic,” Garin said.

She stressed that infodemic should have no place in the middle of the pandemic.