Health Minister, Dr Joe Phaahla has said that consideration should be given to roping in law enforcement to assist with dealing with the spreading of fake news and misinformation on Covid-19 vaccines.
Phaahla was on Tuesday updating the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) on the department’s vaccination programme.
Phaahla said the department of health has adopted a “multidimensional approach” to address Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy, particularly, in the wake of a “strong”, ” fairly orchestrated” and “organized” campaign to “discredit” Covid-19 vaccines.
Phaahla added that it was unfortunate that some health professionals had also spread fake news and misinformation on Covid-19 vaccines.
The department needs to improve its communication strategy on promoting the vaccines, Phaahla said, explaining that various media, including posters, pamphlets, print media and radio would be utilized.
Radio, the minister added, is “very effective”, in particular, the public broadcaster’s stations which cater to the 11 official languages.
The department is working with the GCIS to improve its communication on promoting the vaccines, Phaahla said, adding that a number of media houses have offered to work with the department in this regard “at no cost”.
Phaahla said the department should rope in the country’s law enforcement agencies to assist with addressing the spreading of fake news and misinformation on Covid-19 vaccines because they would determine whether doing so is in contravention to the Disaster Management Act.
“We are going to have to look at that,” Phaahla said, adding that the Act’s regulations do prohibit the spreading of fake news on Covid-19.
Since the initial rollout of Covid-19 vaccines to healthcare workers in February this year, there is evidence that the vaccines have been effective and so there is no need for members of the public to be hesitant about taking them, Phaahla said.
“We are not theorizing […] the results are resounding,” Phaahla said, explaining that very few vaccinated healthcare workers have since fallen severely sick, or were absent from work due to exhibiting severe symptoms, had been admitted to hospital or the ICU or died from Covid-19.
The minister further said that similar results have been recorded among teachers who have been vaccinated, adding that as the third wave of Covid-19 spread across the country it is important to counter fake news on vaccines.