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Saturday, December 4, 2021

Choice or obligation? How vaccine misinformation sparked a Twitter debate

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A debate about the Covid-19 vaccine sparked online, with some claiming indirect obligations to take the jab “violates rights”.

A hashtag trending on Twitter in Qatar has seen social media users debate whether taking the Covid-19 vaccine in Qatar is an obligation or a personal choice.

As part of this week’s easing of restrictions, only those that have been fully vaccinated can access some services and facilities on May 28.

Under the hashtag #تلقيحك_اختيارك (#YourVaccineYourChoice) users complained that the vaccine requirements are a violation of people’s rights and freedoms.

One person tweeted: If not taking the vaccines means I must leave the country, then I will leave. First an application (Ehteraz) was imposed that restricts human freedoms under the pretext of protecting society, and now vaccinations will be imposed after the increase in cases. I suggest you review the United Nations Freedom Law and the Qatari Constitution Law, Article 37-36 #تلقيحك_اختيارك. Every person has the right to choose”.

Read also: Pfizer, Moderna vaccines ‘likely effective’ against Indian Covid variant

Another Twitter user said: “one of my simplest rights as a Qatari citizen is to have freedom of choice in a decision like this. Their method of forcing us to take the vaccine is ridiculous and the most ridiculous thing is the silence of the majority! Why? Even if you have already taken the vaccine, it is necessary to stand against this decision, and believe me anyone who is forcing you to vaccinate now, wil force you to do other things later.”

Some also claimed taking the vaccine is a useless act, noting both vaccinated and non- vaccinated members of society could still be at risk of infection.

This is in stark contradiction to global health studies, including real-world research here in Qatar that has already proven both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines showed efficacy in preventing severe symptoms of the Covid-19 infection.

Those who have received both doses of the vaccine are 61 times less likely to require hospitalisation if infected by the virus, and 91 times less likely to require intensive care, according to studies.

“Extensive clinical trials have shown the Pfizer and BioNTech and Moderna vaccines to be around 95% effective at preventing symptomatic infection. This does not mean vaccinated people are immune to the virus or cannot contract it, but it means they are very unlikely to develop severe symptoms and become ill in the event that they do contract Covid-19,” said Medical Director of the Communicable Disease Center (CDC) at HMC Dr Muna al-Maslamani.

Read also: Vaccine Hesitancy: Why ‘anti-vaxxers’ refuse to get vaccinated against Covid-19

Real-world data from Qatar has also shown high protection rates provided by the vaccines from both the UK and South African mutations. More recent data also revealed great protection provided by the Pfizer and Moderna jabs against the Indian strain as well.

So far in Qatar, there have been no Covid-19 related deaths among fully vaccinated people.

Meanwhile on the opposing camp, others took aim at the “conspiracy-filled” trending hashtag and described it as a dangerous misinformation campaign.

One Tweet said: “imagine being privileged enough to be in a country that provides an easy access to the vaccine but decide to spread misinformation and conspiracies because you refuse to take it.”

Another tweet appealed to the middle ground, saying: “I’ll respect anyone’s decision to not take the vaccine. I understand why someone would be wary and cautious of it, and it’s their body their choice. HOWEVER, an anti vaccine campaign is ridiculous and leaves a big risk for people spreading misinformation.”

Vaccine hesitancy has always been an issue around the world since jabs became a method of protection against disease, but the issue has gained more attention since the pandemic began last year.

In 2019, the World Health Organisation named vaccine hesitancy as one of the world’s top global health threats.


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