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Author: savemalaysia   |   Latest post: Sat, 27 Nov 2021, 3:58 PM


'Combat fake news on vax, booster shot'

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KUALA LUMPUR: As a fourth coronavirus wave looms, it is crucial that the government take proactive steps to combat fake news and widespread mistrust of Covid-19 vaccines and booster shots.

Alliance for Safe Community chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said it was necessary to mitigate fear among the people for better pandemic preparedness and control.

"It is speculated that a spike in cases is a possible outcome of the recent political activity leading up to the Melaka election last Saturday.

"Any increase will only be seen on or after the end of November as it takes at least 10 days before symptoms begin to show. 

"Given our collective experience over the last three waves, it is safe to assume that most people will also be well prepared to deal with a Covid-19 resurgence due to the fact that they have already received their two doses of vaccine and are now waiting for the booster dose.

"But what is disconcerting is the increasing prevalence of anti-vaxxers who are spreading fear about the risks of getting vaccinated," he said in a statement yesterday.

Their actions, Lee said, were due to anxieties caused by what they considered uncertainties.

He said it was therefore important that the people's fears were allayed by the dissemination of correct information in a timely manner.


Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye.
Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye.


"Uncertainties will always be with us — whether it is the economy, our finances, our health, our families or political developments. And anxieties can leave us feeling stressed with a sense of hopelessness.

"The Health Ministry has a very important role to play."

Lee stressed that the authorities must monitor fake news and propaganda generated and circulated on social media, and counter these with facts and figures. This, he said, must be done regularly.

"Over time, the authorities and rakyat will be on the same page, and together we will face this pernicious enemy in a possible fourth wave or beyond."

On a related matter, Lee said while the MySejahtera mobile application had improved, there was still a need for some refinements. For instance, he said, many people were forgetful of the "check out" feature and did not press the button after leaving a shop, restaurant, clinic or any other establishment.

"This feature is designed to help the user to gain access but it could also be troublesome to the person concerned if he or she does not check out and will be contacted in the event of the emergence of Covid cases in the area.

"Could the Health Ministry include an additional feature that will keep reminding the user, audibly or visually, to check out?"

Touching on other challenges faced by the people, Lee said the government should look into offering Covid-19 self-test kits for free as a public health measure to manage the pandemic crisis.

"Otherwise, the authorities need to determine a rate for the self-test kits that is affordable to the people as for regular users with a low income, the costs can be high."

Epidemiologist Associate Professor Dr Malina Osman from Universiti Putra Malaysia suggested that the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission develop an algorithm to trace fake news related to Covid-19 vaccines.

The algorithm, she said, would assist the authorities to root out fake news peddlers and stem the spread of misinformation.

She said this should be done urgently to prevent booster-hesitancy among fully vaccinated individuals.

"The government should also consider providing incentives such as tax relief or rebates for social media influencers who propagate positive information on the vaccines.

"Malaysia also needs a specific legislation to tackle this matter. Currently, we do not have an act that prevents non-experts in a subject matter from disseminating misleading advice.

"Medical practitioners are regulated on this matter through the Medical Act 1971. However, no such legislation has been enacted to prevent those without medical competencies from spreading false information," she told the New Straits Times.

The government, she said, had displayed data transparency by sharing information on adverse events following immunisation on the Github open data platform.

However, she said, the government should rope in competent medical experts to crunch, interpret and convey the data to the public. 



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