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Alarm in UK over fake news prompting non-whites to reject Covid vaccination

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Many people from Indian, Asian and other non-white communities have been rejecting Covid-19 vaccines due to fake news about what they contain and their effect, prompting authorities to secure a “major commitment” from social media companies to clamp down on such material.

The Boris Johnson government has launched an information campaign in over 600 publications, including those that have high proportions of ethnic minority readerships, translating core messages in various languages to allay concerns over the safety of the vaccines.

“Letting vaccine disinformation spread unchecked could cost lives. We take this issue extremely seriously and have secured a major commitment from Facebook, Twitter and Google to tackle it by not profiting from such material, and by responding to flagged content more swiftly,” the health department said.

“We continue to work closely with social media firms to promote authoritative sources of information so people have access to vaccine facts not fiction,” it added.

Various studies have concluded that there is clear evidence that non-whites have been disproportionately affected by the virus with higher rates of infection, higher rates of serious disease and mortality. Vaccine-related fake news include disinformation that the jabs contain animal products or alcohol.

As of January 13, the highest death toll among non-white patients was that of the ‘Indian’ group (1,453) in hospitals and care homes, according to NHS England.

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Nadhim Zahawi, minister responsible for Covid vaccine deployment, said: “Vaccines save lives and it is vitally important that everyone is confident to take up the offer of a vaccine”.

“We recognise the importance of raising awareness of the myriad benefits of vaccination within Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities, who are known to be more at risk from Covid-19. The NHS provides targeted advice and public information about the vaccination process to build awareness about its benefits.”

A recent survey commissioned by the Royal Society of Public Health suggested that 57% of the non-white communities would be happy to have the coronavirus vaccine, compared to over 70% of the rest of the population.

As of January 14, the number of people vaccinated with the first dose was 2,918,252 and 437,977 received the second dose.

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