KentOnline: MP Damian Collins blasts anti-vaccine campaigners for spreading disinformation about the Covid-19 vaccine

KentOnline: MP Damian Collins blasts anti-vaccine campaigners for spreading disinformation about the Covid-19 vaccine

Article by Sam Williams for KentOnline - published 9 December 2020

Fears have been raised over how disinformation being spread on social media could dissuade some people from taking the record-breaking Covid-19 vaccine.

Damian Collins, MP for Folkestone and Hythe, says it will be 'a matter of personal choice' whether people accept the vaccine or not, but he hopes 'everyone does'.

But the politician is also worried about the rise of information being spread from anti-vaccine campaigners, who claim there will be a 'vaccine genocide' and that it will also cause cancer.

Mr Collins says this will result in a 'declining trust in the vaccine', which he says is the quickest way to 'get control of the virus'.

He raised his concerns with Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, during a question and answer session in the House of Commons yesterday - the same day the first vaccine was issued to people in the UK.

Mr Collins said: "I raised my concern that anti-vaccine disinformation on social media might dissuade some people from taking it.

"This was a concern I also raised last week at an online international meeting of parliamentarians focused on tackling social media disinformation, including representatives from the USA, Canada, France, Germany and India.

"Recent analysis by researchers at CounterAction found large quantities of anti-vaccine disinformation on Facebook.

"This included more than 30,000 posts in Germany, which for example compared vaccinations with the Holocaust, claimed there would be a “vaccine genocide” and that the vaccine will cause cancer.

"Their analysis found two million Germans were members of groups sharing such content.

"According to the campaign group Avaaz the top 10 websites spreading health disinformation on Facebook have almost four times as many estimated views as content shared from the websites of the world’s 10 leading health institutions.

"Here, Facebook’s own algorithms are pushing anti-vaxx content over authentic health information.

"The impact of this is declining trust in the vaccine.

"According to research by the Hamburg Center for Health Economics, 70% of Germans said they would take the vaccine in April 2020, but last month that had fallen to 57%.

"The same research showed that 69% of people in the UK would now take it, but in France it was just 46%.

"This is not just a public health challenge, but an example of why we need the social media companies to take more effective action against anti-vaccine conspiracy theories online."

Mr Collins' concerns come after the first person to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in Kent was 80 year old Kenneth Lamb from Romney Marsh.

He had the jab yesterday at the William Harvey Hospital, chosen as one of 50 vaccination centres across the country.

Mr Collins called this a 'fantastic achievement' and said: "It is incredible to think this vaccine has been developed, tested and now delivered, in ten months.

"It will be a matter of personal choice as to whether someone accepts this offer, but we hope that everyone does.

"The more people who have been vaccinated, the quicker we will get control of the virus."

Copyright 2019 Damian Collins. All rights reserved

Promoted by Russell Tillson for and on behalf of Damian Collins, both of Folkestone & Hythe Conservative Association both at 4 West Cliff Gardens, Folkestone, Kent CT20 1SP

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