January saw a significant spike in COVID-19 cases in the Philippines recording almost 40,000 cases in one day. To date, the country reported 3,577,298 confirmed cases and 54,097 deaths. The government and the Department of Health (DOH) encourage Filipinos to have themselves vaccinated because this is another layer of protection, on top of other factors, to avoid any serious effects should anyone catch the virus.
However, vaccine misinformation — and disinformation — discouraged many people to get the shot. The Philippines has administered at least 127,570,820 doses of COVID vaccines so far. Its population, as of 2021, is 109,991,095. Vaccinations for children 5-11 years old are postponed today due to the delay of the supply distribution.
The community-oriented independent media outfit FYT held a two-day webinar (“#FYTCOVID19: Fighting Vaccine Misinformation”), supported by Google, that encouraged people to be more discerning when it comes to the information they see and read online, or hear from others.
Quoting a survey conducted by Reuters, Prof. Yvonne Chua, UP College of Mass Communication, one of the speakers in the webinar said “about 9 out of 10 Filipinos have been exposed to false or misleading information online” and the frontrunner is about coronavirus, including vaccine, with 63% surveyed saw wrong information on the topic. The survey was conducted in 2021.
“The spread of vaccine misinformation is worrisome,” Prof. Chua said.
Dr. Beverly Lorraine Ho of DOH debunked explained extensively how vaccines work emphasizing that it is a layer of protection and not a silver bullet in preventing getting infected by the virus.
“Before we rolled out the vaccines and was given permission to administer them to Filipinos, they underwent extensive research conducting tests on 30,000-60,000 people from other countries,” Dr. Ho said. “In fact, there were about 1 billion people who got vaccinated ahead of us here in the Philippines. We cannot say that we are being experimented on because the researchers concluded the study on the vaccine and are also continuously obtaining data to learn more about the virus.”
To encourage people to be more open to accepting correct vaccine information, Prof. Chua suggests that we become more diplomatic on the approach instead of mocking or belittling people because it would only elicit antagonism.
“We should avoid fighting with them (people who believe in false vaccine information) because it is counterproductive,” Prof. Chua said. “
For its part, Google shared some fact-checking tools and tips to help verify vaccine information:
- Use Google Search operators
These are short commands that help filter Search results. To find exact matches, enclose Search queries in quotation marks. Using the “+” and “-” symbols between two terms will include or exclude related matches, respectively. You can also limit results from a specific website by using “site:”, or view results from a specific time range by choosing “custom range” in the Tools option. For a complete list of search operators, click here.
- Confirm when a post was uploaded
The date and time of when a post was uploaded is important when relating a source to a context. This is usually easily identifiable on some social media platforms, where hovering over the date and time or selecting “Inspect” allows you to view precise upload details. You can also use InVid to verify the exact local upload time of YouTube videos.
- Use reverse image search
Images or footages can be easily used in the wrong context. There are a lot of available tools online to verify the original source of an image such as Google Image Search, Yandex, Bing, Tineye, and Reveye among others. For videos, InVid’s verification plugin allows the extraction of multiple keyframes and do reverse image search on them.
- Identify the geolocation
Sometimes, a simple reverse image search can help identify where a photo or video was taken in order to verify if an incident took place where it claims to have happened. If not, it will be helpful to look out for street layouts, statues and monuments, architectural details, street signs and shopfronts, license plates, as well as terrains and topographies.
- Be keen on details when watching videos
Be sure to watch videos right through because details can be crucial. Watch out for camera movement and take time to pause to catch the decisive view you need. You may also use the apostrophe and period keys to advance or reverse frame by frame. Most importantly, don’t forget to listen – you may be able to pick out place names, accents, dialects.
- Utilize Google Maps
If you cannot be physically present in a certain location, you may use Google Maps’ Street View. You may even view old street view images of the same location through the “historical view” function.