This is how Facebook Malaysia aims to combat false claims about COVID-19 vaccines

I’m going to get a little personal real quick. I received news recently that my grandma had gotten her first COVID-19 vaccination and I’m over the moon. My grandpa, on the other hand, has succumbed to Facebook nonsense that has discouraged him from registering for the vaccine—and nobody around him can talk him out of it.

It’s not that I blame Facebook for my grandfather’s stubborn mind. He’s always been a fan of social media but he’s always had a knack for believing the most outlandish things spread on the internet. And he’s definitely not the only one on this earth who’s like this.

False claims about COVID-19 and vaccines have spread so much so fast that the COVID-19 Immunisation Task Force (CITF) and Facebook Malaysia are launching a series of new initiatives to combat it. The initiatives include a three-pronged approach—listed below.

Tackling misinformation

  • Launch of a digital campaign with Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) to help people detect and minimise the spread of health misinformation in their communities
  • FB In Feed reminder messages that aim to bust myths around COVID-19 focused on side effects of vaccination and will feature generic tips around “mask wearing”, “safe-distancing” and will direct users to the country COVID-19 Information Centre

Connecting People to Accurate and Authoritative Information

  • Continue to connect over 2 billion people in Malaysia to resources from health authorities through our COVID-19 Information Center and pop-ups on Facebook and Instagram with over 600 million people clicking through to learn more
  • Begin connecting people on Facebook to local resources in Malaysia with information on who is eligible for a vaccine and how to get an appointment, starting this week
  • WhatsApp Chatbot to reach people on WhatsApp to promote vaccine education, scheduling and follow up reminders
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Supporting Covid-19 Vaccination Roll Out

  • In partnership with WHO, Facebook has introduced the “Vaccines for All” sticker pack on WhatsApp to encourage people to express their support for vaccinations.
  • Bring new data and insights on vaccine attitudes with data collected by Carnegie Mellon University and University of Maryland as part of the COVID-19 Symptom Survey, to provide a better understanding of trends in vaccine intent across socio demographics, race, geography and more in Malaysia
  • To make it easy to track how COVID-19 vaccine information is being spread on social media through CrowdTangle’s COVID-19 Live Displays.

As the country progresses into Phase 2 of the vaccination programme, CITF wants to ensure that at least 70 per cent of the population are vaccinated against the virus by December of 2021. So far, a total of 3,605,069 individuals have been registered under Phase 2. There are 1,438,974 individuals under the Senior Citizen category, 136,798 individuals registered as people with disability and 2,029,297 individuals with chronic disease.

“Many are still in the ‘wait and see’ stage to get themselves registered for the vaccine, and people are turning to online news and social media to find information and share with family and friends. We welcome and applaud the synergy of public-private partnership like with Facebook Malaysia to help spread awareness and connect people to credible information on COVID-19 vaccines that contributes to the success of the National COVID-19 Immunisation Programme (PICK). The success of the PICK is critical in ensuring a faster recovery of our country’s economy when social and economic activities can be less stringent and can open up once again,” said Khairy Jamaluddin, Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation.

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I hope that the campaign would be successful enough to get my grandpa, as well as a few other people in my family who are still wary, the will for a COVID-19 vaccination. I’m counting on Facebook to get the campaign right, because my grandpa will only listen to the internet—so only time will tell.

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Dzamira Dzafri