- The head of the Red Cross, the world's largest humanitarian organization, said a vaccine alone cannot stop COVID-19 if governments fail to address misinformation about the disease.
- Francesco Rocca, president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, called COVID-19 misinformation a "parallel pandemic."
- Rocca cited a Johns Hopkins University survey in 67 countries that found vaccine acceptance declined "significantly" globally between July to October.
- The UK became the first country to approve a COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday morning.
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The head of the Red Cross said a COVID-19 vaccine alone may not end the disease if countries cannot control misinformation.
Francesco Rocca, president of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said in an address to the UN on Monday that governments must address misinformation and mistrust of public health immediately. Red Cross, the world's largest humanitarian organization, has collected COVID-19 antibodies through blood plasma, set up quarantine shelters in underserved communities, and supported health systems in underprepared countries.
Without an ambitious plan to address COVID-19 misinformation, the global vaccine rollout effort could fail, according to an IFRC release.
"To beat COVID-19, we also need to defeat the parallel pandemic of mistrust that has consistently hindered our collective response to this disease, and that could undermine our shared ability to vaccinate against it," Rocca said in a release ahead of the UN address.
The UK became the first country to approve a COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday morning. The US Food and Drug Administration is currently reviewing late-stage vaccine trial data from Pfizer and Moderna.
Conspiracy theories about the disease have spread online since the start of the pandemic, prompting Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter to delete posts sharing fake claims. Tech companies recently partnered with Canada and the UK to figure out how to stop COVID-19 misinformation.
Read more: Drugmakers behind 3 coronavirus vaccines say they work. Here's everything we know about the race for a vaccine and when you might be able to get a shot.
The Associated Press reported that at the UN briefing, Rocca pointed to a Johns Hopkins University survey in 67 countries that found vaccine acceptance declined "significantly" in most countries between July to October. In Japan, the acceptance rate for a COVID-19 vaccine dropped from 70% to 50%, while in France it dropped from 51% to 38%.
Skepticism of the disease's risk grew in African countries, where people are cynical about vaccines in general due to theories foreigners use the continent as a medical "testing ground," Rocca said. He said in some of the world's most marginalized groups, like impoverished communities in Pakistan, are not even aware there is an ongoing pandemic, the AP reported
Rocca said building trust requires "deliberate and sustained community engagement," and said the Red Cross has already reached 243 million people to answer questions, provide accurate information, and track perceptions of the disease.
"We stand ready to support government efforts to roll out a COVID-19 vaccine, including by leading and supporting efforts to counteract misinformation and build trust," Rocca said.
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