Those who know me know that I am rarely lost for words, but watching the events in the US recently had me aghast. Then again during a socially distanced Christmas meeting with some friends I found myself absolutely stumped for words.
People I know and respect, friends in other words, shocked me to the core when they told me that they wouldn’t be taking advantage of the Covid-19 vaccine when it is offered here and their reasons really did leave me speechless.
Good manners prevented an all-out row, and after I stopped to think and reflect. After all, they were sincere in what they said but even today I am still struggling to understand why they would believe that a) the whole Covid-19 pandemic is a conspiracy, and b) that the vaccine contains particles which are actually GPS locators.
I hope you’ll believe me when I tell you this isn’t true, but then look at the people in the United States who believed so strongly their election had been ‘stolen’ they stormed their seat of government.
I cannot call my friends stupid, because they are far from it, and yet they believe something I find incredulous. It got me thinking. I had a look around on-line and of course found myself reading page after page of theories, some pretty convincing, others not so, but quickly came to realize quite how much misinformation is out there.
Now a respectable newspaper like Euro Weekly is bound by various ethical and professional codes, and as a publisher they have a duty of care and so you can be sure if they say we landed on the moon’s surface in 1969 you can take that as fact.
This is why you won’t find the paper extolling the virtues of bleach when it comes to treating Covid-19 for example. (It’s very dangerous by the way) But these professional norms don’t apply to things you can read on-line on social media.
To add to the problem many of the posts I had a look at had very professional graphics and in some cases video supporting them. It used to be a very complicated and expensive thing to manipulate video. Now anyone with a smartphone can do this in a few minutes. Channel 4 ran a spoof Queen’s speech this year making this very point. I think they could have made it almost 100% perfect but as a responsible broadcaster probably didn’t just in case anyone got taken in for real!
So I’m not calling people stupid for believing what they read on-line, I can see that it’s not easy to distinguish fact from fiction, but I would ask a few questions. If this is a big lie then who gains from it? It’s true a few unscrupulous people have made a bit out of supplying PPE, but in the main everyone continues to be impacted by this – and not in a good way.
No one will be forced into accepting the vaccine, if this was some weird way of keeping tabs on you then governments would surely make this mandatory. In any case if you own a smartphone your movements can already be tracked for as long as it is turned on.
I can’t debunk all the theories here, but what I can say is that I am genuinely thrilled that we now have a number of vaccines that will help put an end to this pandemic. But we all have our part to play; those of us who are vaccinated will be protected and so reduce pressure on our health systems, so if I, or you, get run over crossing the road there will be a hospital bed waiting for us.
Right now that’s especially important as figures for this part of Spain show an alarming jump following the holiday break. The more of us who are vaccinated the less chance the virus has of jumping from one to another, but we all still need to practice hand hygiene and keep our distance for the time being.
Having felt so helpless this past year it’s now really good to think there is something positive we can all do to help restore our lives, our communities, and our livelihoods.
Happy New Year to you all.
Dr Marcus Stephan
My views are entirely personal and do not reflect the view or position of any organisation. You should always consult your own medical practitioner regarding any concerns that you may have.