If a parent were to tell us that they were depriving their child of food as a way of teaching them right from wrong, we would view this as a child protection matter and make the appropriate notification. But what do we say and do when a person tells us that they have no intention of being vaccinated against COVID-19 and they are certainly not going to allow this for their child? Their rationale is that the vaccine is unsafe as it was developed so fast, it will alter DNA and that it includes a tracking device so the government can control us. These are a few of the common myths that currently circulate.
While Australia has barely enough vaccine to safely inoculate those under 30 and messages from those in authority are confusing at best, we are certain to encounter this dilemma before the year is out. A paper by the World Health Organization in September 2020 “Managing the COVID-19 Infodemic: Promoting healthy behaviours and mitigating the harm from misinformation and disinformation’’ says ‘’Misinformation costs lives. Without the appropriate trust and correct information, diagnostic tests go unused, immunization campaigns (or campaigns to promote effective vaccines) will not meet their targets, and the virus will continue to thrive. Furthermore, disinformation is polarizing public debate on topics related to COVID-19; amplifying hate speech; heightening the risk of conflict, violence and human rights violations; and threatening long-terms prospects for advancing democracy, human rights and social cohesion.
So how do we, as practitioners engage in this debate? An article in ‘The Conversation’ in November 2020 suggests four strategies; being aware of who we are speaking with, ‘inoculating’ against misinformation, debunking efficiently and the use of stories and positive language to speak to the issue. In many respects this is no different to the work we do every day as we encourage clients to relate differently supported by our well documented knowledge that some ways of being together produce safer and healthier outcomes than others.