To cut through COVID-19 disinformation, Ottawa urged to make sure vaccination info also reaches newcomers

December 25, 2020

By the Star |

The misinformation tends to go like this: “A vaccine will change your DNA.”

Or … “COVID-19 vaccination is a scheme Bill Gates cooked up to insert microchips into our body.”

Other times, there’ll be a meme using an image of Drake that suggests getting coronavirus is safer than getting the shot.

Anti-vaccine propaganda and misinformation comes in multiple languages over a spectrum of social media, shared widely among community groups, social circles and families. The messaging targets everyone under the sun.

Advocates say Canadian health authorities need to make accurate vaccination facts accessible to newcomers, who can be susceptible to these campaigns due to language and cultural barriers.

“We have to make sure we cut through the misinformation out there. There are a lot of unknowns. You had two people getting allergic reactions to the vaccine. It doesn’t mean it’s going to kill you, but you see information getting distorted,” says Mario Calla, executive director of COSTI, a Toronto immigrant settlement service agency.

“Newcomers often rely on information from their home countries and may have a disconnect with what’s happening here in Canada due to language barriers. Some have had troubled history with the health system back home. They need a trusted source of information.”

According to the latest census data, almost 22 per cent of Canadians are foreign-born immigrants, with more than 70 per cent reporting a language other than English or French as their mother tongue.

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