Imam and pastor urge people to ‘check before you share’ posts about vaccine

Jamie Harris, PA Science Technology Reporter
·2-min read

Shareable videos of an imam, a pastor and clinicians have been created with the aim of dispelling misinformation about the coronavirus vaccine.

A series of clips and images have been put together by the Government with the support of social media giants including Facebook and Twitter, in a bid to address concerns about low vaccine uptake among ethnic minority communities.

Trusted community figures feature in the material, urging people to be mindful of misinformation and “check before you share”.

The campaign is particularly aimed at countering the spread of misleading and false details via private messaging apps such as WhatsApp, where it is harder to detect.

Example of one of the posts that the Government hopes will help people think before sharing misinformation
An example of one of the posts that the Government hopes will help people think before sharing misinformation (DCMS/PA)

It comes after Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi said anti-vaccination messages are “very, very cleverly, hyper super-forensically targeted at different communities” with false claims about fertility “proving to be sadly quite potent”.

The campaign is the first to be designed by the Government specifically for private instant messaging services, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said.

Reverend Alton Bell, senior pastor at the Wembley Family Church, said: “As a faith leader and scientist in the black community, I’m lending my voice to this campaign because it is absolutely vital people get the facts about the vaccine, not rumours which could do them harm if they believe them.

“My message is simple: be aware of false information online and check before you share.”

Qari Asim, a senior imam at the Makkah Mosque in Leeds and chairman of the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board, who also took part, said: “It’s natural that people might have questions about vaccines, but we’re seeing instances where they’ve relied on unfounded theories or fake news to make a decision to delay taking the vaccine.

“We want people to be aware of the false information that is being circulated on these platforms and make informed choices based on the information from the health authorities and faith leaders.”

The campaign carries three tips for people to follow, including checking where the information comes from, looking closely to see whether it seems trustworthy, and urging people not to share it if they remain unsure about what is claimed.

Champions are also helping dispel myths around the vaccination process, using Facebook and WhatsApp groups to hold Q&As to help drive take-up of the vaccine.

Digital and Culture Minister Caroline Dinenage said: “We want to harness the power of social media to tackle false information and encourage take-up of life-saving vaccines among ethnic minorities.

“Our new toolkit and campaign will help people access reliable and factual information on vaccines and builds on the good work platforms are already doing to promote trusted quality information.”