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Oct 29
In the age of smart phones, social media and increased dis- and misinformation, how information literate are YOU?

By: Lunga Memela (Communication Engagement Lead)

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Digital platforms are saturated with ongoing debates around COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy and unprecedented rumours and misinformation, despite the reported number of lives lost globally. In an age where scientific data and information are at our fingertips, the biggest question around vaccine hesitancy today is why not forge ahead and protect yourself and those around you by simply taking the jab?

The month of October ends with the very necessary commemoration of Global Media and Information Literacy Week – an initiative of the United Nation's Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) – which celebrates its 10th anniversary and is hosted this year by South Africa under the theme: Media and Information Literacy for the Public Good.

The global event emanated long before the exponential rise in disinformation, political polarisation, increasing influence of digital platforms and the COVID-19 pandemic, as UNESCO elicits, "In the current ecosystem of complex and sometimes contradictory messages and meanings, it is hard to conceive of the public good being advanced, if the public is disempowered in the face of opportunities and threats. Each individual needs to be equipped with media and information literacy competencies to understand the stakes, and to contribute to and benefit from information and communication opportunities."

The World Health Organization (WHO) has recorded numerous vaccine success stories spanning across pandemics and diseases including measles, varicella, meningococcus, polio, tetanus, hepatitis, pertussis, influenza and diphtheria. Each outbreak has been detrimental, resulting in many lives lost until vaccine intervention was the answer.

The Cable News Network (CNN) recently shared a video, Facebook is having a tougher time managing vaccine misinformation than it is letting on, leaks suggest, which makes it clear that much is still to be done along the lines of media and information literacy for the public good. The challenge winds down to local contexts where, for instance, the South African Medical Research Council contextualised the situation and has had to school readers in a befitting article titled: Towards understanding the complexities of vaccine hesitancy in South Africa

How information literate are YOU?

In February this year, WHO published a COVID-19 vaccine safety question and answer portal to promote vaccine literacy in an effort to encourage the global community to get vaccinated. Of particular concern were rumours, uncertainty and misinformation about vaccine efficacy and longevity of life thereafter. Scientists responded to these concerns and were sometimes misquoted by 'anti-vaxxers'.

Equal efforts have been witnessed from South Africa's NDoH, which launched a weekly COVID-19 and Vaccine Social Listening Report where health advocates across governmental and non-governmental entities join forces to comprehend dis- and misinformation that challenge NDoH's envisaged benefits of heard immunity.

What is HST doing about it?

Emanating from HST's weekly Bulletin and 60percent publications, the organisation's Communications Unit (CU) contributes to and participates in a COVID-19 and Vaccine Social Listening forum in order to better understand how to channel clear, concise and accurate information to its audiences across HST channels which, amongst others, include:

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It's quite important for every person to ask themselves, how information literate am I?

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Read WHO's article: Fighting misinformation in the time of COVID-19, one click at a time.

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