Anti-vaxxer lies put lives at risk – Sadiq Khan

Sadiq Khan has issued a stern warning against anti-vaxxer propaganda, saying that the misinformation spread these groups is putting lives at risk.

London has administered fewer jabs than any other English region, a total of 476,168. Tuesday (19 January) saw 36,477 Covid jabs administered across London, up from 22,466 on Monday (18 January).

Mr Khan said he and his family, including his elderly mother, would receive the jab as soon as it was offered, and encouraged Londoners to share positive messages about the vaccines to combat the ‘dangerous falsehoods’ spread by vaccine sceptics.

‘Push truths and positive messages’

Writing in the Evening Standard, the Mayor said:

‘The coronavirus pandemic is the biggest challenge our country has faced since the Second World War and remains a huge threat to our city. The Covid-19 vaccines mean we can see the light at the end of the tunnel but one major hurdle we face — and one we simply must overcome — is the deeply dangerous misinformation that is being peddled about the vaccines. Pernicious propaganda is already putting lives at risk — causing people in our city, including the most vulnerable, to reject the opportunity to be vaccinated.

‘Research shows that there are only a very small number of people who are completely and dogmatically against all vaccines — the so-called anti-vaxxers. But, worryingly, there are many more who have honest concerns and are potentially susceptible to misinformation, making them even more hesitant about receiving a coronavirus vaccine.

‘This is particularly the case among members of some ethnic minority communities in London. This stems from several different factors, ranging from religious and safety concerns, to a fundamental lack of trust in the Government and public institutions due to historic injustices against their communities. Our urgent task is to counter misinformation by ensuring that all those who have concerns, or might be hesitant about getting vaccinated, receive the correct information about how safe and effective it is from credible and reliable sources they trust.  We must not make things worse by engaging and debating with those who are spreading the lies and “fake news”. We shouldn’t give them the oxygen of publicity. I completely understand the impulse to call out the terrible falsehoods we see on social media and elsewhere.

I’ve felt this impulse myself many times in recent weeks. But I’ve managed to resist because all the evidence shows that it’s much better to push truths and positive messages, rather than accidentally amplify lies by sharing or responding to them, which only gives extreme voices and conspiracy theorists an elevated profile.          

‘The Centre for Countering Digital Hate has produced a very helpful guide, which outlines the best ways for people to get involved in countering the spread of dangerous falsehoods. As well as not engaging with anti-vaccine lies online, they say the most effective approach is to correct misinformation from family and friends privately, speak up about wanting to get vaccinated and help spread pro-vaccine messages, including from respected community leaders and trusted health professions.

I will continue to assure Londoners that when our time comes, my family and I — including my elderly mother — will be getting vaccinated. And I’m using every opportunity to get positive messages out to the public about how the vaccines are not only extremely safe and effective, but are vitally important to saving lives, ending the cycle of lockdowns and getting our city firing on all cylinders again.  

‘I’d encourage Londoners to do all they can too. If we don’t act, we risk allowing the anti-vaxxers and bad actors online to get ahead of us, leaving them free to prey on people’s fears with their shameful lies. Throughout this pandemic,  Londoners have been extraordinary in the way they have responded — making incredible sacrifices and supporting the most vulnerable. Becoming effective vaccine allies is now one more duty we must take on to win this battle — because this is how we can save many thousands of lives, protect our NHS and get our city back on its feet.’

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See also: LB Hounslow has the highest Covid rate in London

See also: High percentage of Chiswick’s eligible residents already vaccinated against Covid

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