A Cape Town couple who received their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine together. Picture: Supplied
A Cape Town couple who received their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine together. Picture: Supplied

Twitter influencers share tactics with Western Cape to combat vaccine misinformation

By Mwangi Githahu Time of article published Sep 6, 2021

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Cape Town - As the Western Cape continues with its push against fake news about Covid-19 and the vaccine campaign, Twitter influencers on the pandemic have briefed the legislature’s Covid-19 ad hoc committee on their communication strategies to fight vaccine misinformation.

Scientist Ridhwaan Suliman of the CSIR, who tweets in his personal capacity as @rid1tweets, and high school teacher and science graduate Sugan Naidoo, who tweets as @sugan2503, told the committee how they use data provided by national and provincial governments in their campaigns.

Suliman said social media can be a powerful tool, but carries pros and cons.

“However, the benefits outweigh the risks. It’s difficult to remain objective in the face of a disease like this, but the importance of simple and clear messaging about it as well as consistent and unbiased reporting is crucial.

“I don’t see myself as a Twitter influencer. My day job is in engineering and applied mathematics, which is as far removed from Covid-19 as you can imagine. But I have spent the last 18 months analysing the pandemic’s data and trends.”

Scientist Ridhwaan Suliman of the CSIR, who tweets in his personal capacity as @rid1tweets. Picture: Supplied
High school teacher and science graduate Sugan Naidoo, who tweets as @sugan2503. Picture: Supplied

Naidoo puts together a table of data every day giving a simple view of the daily stats that come from the government and institutions.

He said that as a school teacher he was aware that too much information can seem overwhelming.

During the briefing, which discussed the importance of sharing accurate, timely information through various communication channels, Premier Alan Winde told the committee that there is no “one size fits all communications strategy” in the battle against Covid-19 vaccine misinformation.

Winde said the Western Cape has adopted different communication strategies for different regions in its determination to be flexible and innovative when it comes to getting its message across.

He was responding to a question asked by committee member Ricardo Mackenzie (DA) on the importance of sharing accurate, timely information through various communication channels and using targeted platforms for the greatest reach.

Winde said: “In the Dunoon region we’ve seen quite a lot of video content being used to spread the message and we get feedback on social media platforms.

“On the West Coast, in certain communities, we’ve found loud hailing to be quite effective.

“Perhaps the most successful is the feedback coming from the Overberg in relation to the vaccination programme. There it has been very much a municipal involvement where the municipalities almost seemed to be competing with their billboards saying how they were doing with vaccine registrations.

He said the provincial dashboard showed how effective the communication campaign in the Overberg had been with over 90% of the 60+ age group registered and more than 90% vaccinated.

Meanwhile, committee chairperson Mireille Wenger (DA) said combating misinformation, vaccine hesitancy and Covid-19 fake news is crucial, given that information, especially through social media, is shared rapidly and has a very long reach.

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Cape Argus

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