Who would've thought before the pandemic that social media could become such a hive of health information — with countless social media accounts posting daily about COVID-19, vaccines, and more.
But some accounts posting health guidance are more reliable than others — with social media being home to a great deal of damaging myths and misinformation about the pandemic too, alongside reliable, accurate health guidance from genuine medical professionals.
So when using social media to learn more about the pandemic, it’s vital to be sure that the accounts you follow, and posts you see and share, are legitimate and can be trusted.
Many health leaders on the African continent have noticed what a positive force social media can be for helping make sure important health messaging about the pandemic reaches everyone, and have taken to using their personal and professional platforms to share accurate information about COVID-19 and vaccines, and debunk misleading and inaccurate information too.
It’s no secret that vaccine nationalism has stood firmly in the way of Africa’s access to vaccines, with rich countries having stockpiled more than enough doses for their populations, leaving Africa to scramble for protection. However, another barrier between vaccines and the people that need them comes in the form of vaccine hesitancy, largely driven by widespread misinformation about both the coronavirus and the COVID-19 vaccines themselves.
According to a 2020 survey carried out by Africa’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), up to 38% of people across 15 African countries were hesitant to receive a vaccine. Although that is the minority, the figures look different for different countries, with some places having more vaccine hesitant people than others.
A lack of confidence in vaccines could prolong the pandemic, with those who are unwilling or unable to receive a vaccine being more vulnerable to the severe effects of COVID-19. This could also lead to further, potentially more dangerous variants of the virus which could unnecessarily extend the pandemic. That’s why while vaccine hesitancy — and the widespread misinformation causing many people to feel hesitant — might seem like an individual’s issue, it really is everyone’s issue.
Here are some social media accounts to check out, to help you be sure that the information you’re reading and sharing online is accurate and reliable.
1. Media Hack
Data-driven journalism collective, Media Hack, has mastered the art of turning overwhelming data and statistics into digestible visuals. In 2020 the collective established a coronavirus dashboard that looks into the numbers behind the pandemic and what impact the virus is having on the African continent.
Thanks to the information from this dashboard, Media Hack have been putting together graphs and visual representations to share on their social media pages to help their followers understand the impact of COVID-19. These include how many cases there are across the continent, which countries have donated vaccines to Africa, and how quickly the virus is spreading in some nations.
2. Viral Facts Africa
Backed by the World Health Organisation, Viral Facts Africa is specifically designed to tackle public health misinformation. The platform that shares content on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, uses information and expertise from 14 organizations and finds innovative ways to dispel misinformation for the masses and update followers on developments in health care.
From animations to personal stories, their social media pages are both engaging and informative. They pull information from some of the leading data-backed organisations such as Africa Check and Agence France Presse Fact Check, and they also find experts from across the continent to answer burning questions surrounding COVID-19, vaccines, and the pandemic overall.
3. Eh! Woza
Run by biomedical scientists for the youth of South Africa, Eh!Woza is a non-profit media organisation that’s helping young people in the country understand TB, COVID-19, and other viral diseases.
The organisation uses documentary-style video production to engage viewers and followers, and for COVID-19 specifically, they created animated videos that tackled big questions, such as vaccine side effects and how the virus spreads, in the space of one minute.
4. Africa CDC
As a large public health agency, it makes sense that the Africa CDC would use its own social media platforms to help people understand the details and impacts of COVID-19.
From hosting informative webinars on vaccine developments, to sharing updates on the coronavirus variants, to keeping the public informed on the continent’s vaccine imports, Africa CDC’s social channels are filled with loads of answers to your COVID-19 questions.
The Africa CDC is also working towards cementing vaccine production in Africa, so that countries can have easier access to vaccines in the future. With this in mind, they’re also continuing to update the public on these plans where they can every step of the way.
The continent’s go-to fact checking platform has played a major role in helping debunk COVID-19 misinformation both through platforms like Viral Facts Africa, and on their own pages.
AfricaCheck mainly focuses on verifying facts or statements that have made their way to the public, or that have circulated through the media. This makes them an important third party to refer to if you come across facts that you may not understand or aren’t sure of how legitimate they are.
From the myths they’ve debunked on COVID-19, AfricaCheck will soon be launching a podcast and sharing video content to keep the public further informed on what’s true, and what’s not.
Translated from isiZulu, Bhekisisa means to double check, take a second look, or to look properly for something. That makes the name suitable for South Africa’s leading health journalism platform, which takes a deeper look at public health information with each story they produce.
Over the last year, the platform has excelled at taking a deeper look at COVID-19 and making the information that they’ve found easily understandable for the everyday person. For example, they most recently used the colourful analogy of building a hamburger to describe how you can trust a vaccine, this after diving into South Africa’s approval process for Russia’s Sputnik jab.
7. Mistress of Science
South African-based scientist, Sarah Downs has taken to using her personal expertise to help citizens understand facts about COVID-19. She gained a following after she debunked information in a widespread Facebook video that claimed COVID-19 vaccines could change the structure of DNA.
Since then, Downs, who goes by the Mistress of Science on Facebook, uses her platform to explain complex information surrounding COVID-19 for her followers. From breaking down data to sharing informative news, Downs answers as many health-related questions as she can on her platform.
Follow her on Facebook.
You can join the Global Citizen Live campaign to defeat poverty and defend the planet by taking action here, and become part of a movement powered by citizens around the world who are taking action together with governments, corporations, and philanthropists to make change.