A new report from First Draft News illustrates the depth of COVID-19 vaccine misinformation targeting Black communities. In a Twitter thread, journalist Jacquelyn Mason explained that the major narratives observed were also put in the context of broader political conversations.
Mason and her colleagues explored the types of narratives facing Black communities online. But they also recognized that Black people weren’t a monolith and that some narratives had class and equity considerations.
“For example, narratives which alleged a Black female scientist’s role in development of a Covid-19 vaccine was nefarious, that white liberals and ‘Black liberal elite’ are coercing Black people into being vaccinated, and that vaccines are experimental and unsafe were prominent,” Mason explained in a Tweet.
Another striking fact Mason highlighted was the reach of official information to Black social media users.
“On social media platforms such as Facebook, it was found that official information reached far fewer Black people than other demographics have created an environment under which misinformation can thrive,” Mason tweeted.
One other report finding explained that anti-vaccine rhetoric took root in anxieties that stemmed from valid concerns rooted in systemic racism.
Misleading vaccine claims aimed at Black audiences on social media are often based on past medical harms and examples of current institutional racism, such as the ongoing Black maternal health crisis. Where mistrust in institutions is already high, these posts, which are both emotive and appended with anti-vaccine claims, can be even more potent.
Breaking through the cycle of mistrust and misinformation has been challenging, with Black doctors and public health officials working hard to get out good, verifiable information.
Descendants of men harmed by the infamous Tuskegee Experiment even launched an ad campaign correcting the myth that the failure to treat Black men with syphilis was the same as getting the COVID-19 vaccine. As previously reported by NewsOne, the Tuskegee Legacy Stories Campaign was launched in partnership with the Ad Council and the COVID Collaborative.
Some advocates have called on famous Black people, including athletes and entertainers, to do their part amid a public health crisis. While many may think that it’s not their job to encourage people to get vaccinated, having trusted voices sharing good information can go a long way.