COVID-19-RELATED disinformation just keeps going and going.
Following are some of the notable falsehoods that have appeared on social media and messaging platforms.
Kenyan Catholic doctors against vaccines
On 11 March, Kenya received its first batch of vaccines through the Covax facility. The very next day a statement appeared online from an entity called the Kenya Catholic Doctors Association, which claimed that Covid-19 vaccines were unsafe, that Bill Gates was profiting from the pandemic, and that the vaccines were to enable population control.
Both the Kenyan government and the World Health Organisation (WHO) had to issue statements in response to assure Kenyans of the safety of the vaccines.
Dodgy treatment advice
One disproven treatment for Covid-19 is steaming or steam inhalation.
This practice appears to be especially popular across African social media groups, despite the WHO and various national health authorities having warned for some time now that steaming has no impact on Covid-19, and may even be dangerous.
Another dodgy piece of advice is to drink herbal remedies or teas to treat Covid-19.
Once again, the WHO has cautioned that existing herbal remedies have not been proven to be effective treatments against Covid-19.
Social grant scam
Scammers have been active since the start of the pandemic, and in March 2021 another scam went continental.
A WhatsApp promotion for a Covid-19 social grant went viral across large parts of Africa and gave many hope, while causing confusion.
The scam encouraged people to sign up for a 'federal' grant by clicking on a link.
It turns out the scam first emerged in Nigeria in February 2021, where people were warned against submitting private details on the suspicious website. Across the continent people were warned not to fall for the scam. In Namibia, the Ministry of Finance also issued a warning against the scam in mid-March.
Skepticism around the Sinopharm vaccine
In mid-March Namibia received a large batch of Sinopharm's Covid-19 vaccine.
The arrival of the vaccine and the roll-out of the vaccination programme were accompanied by much online skepticism and misinformation around the safety of the vaccine.
However, around the world, in dozens of countries, millions of people have already been vaccinated with the Sinopharm vaccine, and no major health incidents or deaths have been reported as a result.
Even so, the fact that all the data around the efficacy of the Sinopharm vaccine was still not available by late March remained a concern.
Covid-19 vaccines and pregnancy
In March, people were spreading messages that claimed Covid-19 vaccines are harmful to pregnant women. However, the WHO in January 2021 stated: “While pregnancy puts women at higher risk of severe Covid-19, very little data are available to assess vaccine safety in pregnancy . . . we don't have any specific reason to believe there will be specific risks that would outweigh the benefits of vaccination for pregnant women.”
The United States' Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stated: “There is currently no evidence that any vaccines, including Covid-19 vaccines, cause fertility problems.”
Interestingly, the Namibian Ministry of Health and Social Services has indicated that pregnant women would not be vaccinated with the Sinopharm vaccine.
Vaccines altering DNA
Anti-vaccine disinformation has in March also claimed Covid-19 vaccines change human DNA once in the body. This is a misrepresentation of what are called 'DNA vaccines' or mRNA vaccines – messenger RNA vaccines.
Health authorities around the world have been at pains to explain that mRNA vaccines do not alter human DNA, because they do not enter the human cell nucleus where DNA resides.