A file photo shows social media app icons on a smartphone. Picture: AP
A file photo shows social media app icons on a smartphone. Picture: AP

Conversations related to Covid-19 on social media driven by conspiracy theories and vaccine hesitancy

By Yasmine Jacobs Time of article published Oct 17, 2021

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FRINGE conspiracy theorists still continue to drive a significant amount of anti-vaccination rhetoric, followed by posts on vaccines hesitancy and vaccine scepticism.

This is according to the Centre for Analytics and Behavioural Change (CABC).

The analysis shows that unsubstantiated claims about vaccine injuries and death, government/institutional manipulation, conspiracy theories, and similar mis/disinformation, remain prevalent – despite attempts by authorities to curb misinformation.

CABC researchers also found a number of posts containing claims that people have died from the vaccine, as well as posts claiming that people have gotten severe vaccine injuries.

Conspiracy theories

There are several dangerous conspiracy theories doing the rounds, that play a huge role in the resistance towards vaccines.

The most prevalent is the claim suggesting that the Covid-19 vaccine was designed specifically as a tool for depopulation.

There are also accusations that the US Government’s Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is hiding the true number of vaccine injuries and deaths, while others made claims suggesting that the testing of Covid-19 and administration of vaccines are both part of government/institutional interests.

Another common conspiracy is that the vaccination roll-out in South Africa, and throughout the African continent, is a means to experiment of African people.

Out of thousands of tweets related to Covid-19 vaccinations, data showed that vaccine hesitancy drove a significant portion of the discussions on social media.

A post tweeted by a US account, that frequently distributes anti-vaccination information, gained traction in South Africa. It read: “Fifth year medical student waited to get Pfizer's jab because it was presented as the ’safest’. Ten minutes later, Arooj began having spasms, then seizures, and lost use of her legs. Arooj has asked her family to document these episodes for medical research.”

Sometimes, hesitants would use neutral tweets to substantiate their anti-vaccine stances, as seen when local celebrity Bonnie Mbuli tweeted about her post-vaccine symptoms in a tweet that read: “Shuuu! My vaccine side effects seem heavier than most describe, can’t even get out of bed, didn’t even feel this bad when I had Covid-19. Did anyone else have hectic side effects?”

Amongst the trending side-effects that have escalated vaccine hesitancy online are reports of women missing their periods following their vaccinations.

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