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Disinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine is quickly becoming as widespread as the virus itself. For every person who takes to social media to celebrate their second dose of the vaccine or encourage others to get vaccinated, there are tons of people who use their accounts to spread fake news. On September 13th, Nicki Minaj tweeted to her 22.8 million followers that her cousin’s friend became impotent from the COVID-19 vaccine. This anecdote was quickly debunked by both scientists and the Trinidadian government. But still, misinformation about the vaccine persists — especially in Latino communities
To combat the spreading of COVID-19 vaccine disinformation, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has created a bilingual “digital information hub” targeted towards Latinos called Juntos Together.
Juntos Together is full of colorful, easy-to-digest graphics that explain the facts around the COVID-19 vaccine in straightforward language. The photos and gifs say things like “Las vacunas son seguras y efectivas!” and “No dejes que el COVID-19 gane. Vacúnese.” The shareable graphics also come with links to access to resources like vaccines.org and a number to text to schedule a vaccine appointment.
The DCCC said they created the hub after seeing a preponderance of vaccine conspiracy theories spreading on WhatsApp in Spanish. “There is a lot of misinformation that we are seeing going through WhatsApp: anti-vaccination misinformation, lies about Democrats and things that have no basis in fact that spread like wildfire,” said DCCC spokesperson Adrian Eng-Gastelum to NBC News.
The 2020 election is when people started noticing the preponderance of misinformation targeting Latinos on WhatsApp.
Florida Democratic strategist Evelyn Pérez-Verdía pointed out the phenomenon last year, telling NBC News: “People see the videos and the disinformation so many times that it gets to them. They feel they can’t trust the media, and that’s the most worrisome part. Now they call Spanish-language media fake news.”
This Spring, the the Latino Disinformation Lab found that “almost 4 in 10 Latinx respondents report having seen material or information that makes them think the COVID-19 vaccines are not safe or effective.” That same study found that Facebook was the primary platform responsible for spreading vaccine disinformation. Latinos are looking to their community to be educated about the vaccine and be woefully misled.
The DCCC isn’t the only group aiming to educate Latinos about the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines.
Philadelphia-based group Unidos Contra Covid hopes that, through their intimate knowledge of Latino communities, they can persuade vaccine-hesitant Latinos to get the shot. They understand the context of why communities of color are less likely to trust the medical establishment.
“These historically marginalized groups have ample precedent to distrust traditional vaccination campaigns,” they wrote in a grant proposal. They suggested vaccine centers in the heart of Latino neighborhoods staffed by people who are “culturally and linguistically attuned to their needs.”
“Is the average abuelita going to travel miles from home to go to the Convention Center to get inoculated by somebody wearing military fatigues?” asked Unidos Contra Covid head physician Dr. Jose Torradas in an interview with NPR. “To me, I struggle to see that.”
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