Prime Minister Andrew Holness is calling on the island’s universities to play a role in combating false information about the COVID-19 vaccines which he said is being peddled by “quacks”, “false prophets” and “pseudo-intellectuals”.
“We’re not strong on social media combating the nonsense that is being put out (about the vaccines),” declared Holness.
“The University of the West Indies, which is the repertoire of knowledge, which we spent billions of dollars on, has that duty and a responsibility to be a strong voice in all spaces to ensure that the public is properly guided,” he charged.
The prime minister was speaking at the handing over of a genome-sequencing machine to the National Influenza Centre at the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) in St Andrew on Friday.
With thousands of doses of AstraZeneca vaccines expected to expire at the end of the month and Jamaica’s vaccination rate remaining low, Holness blamed persons on social media for influencing citizens to avoid getting vaccination.
“We have enough vaccines. We have a whole heap of vaccines; vaccines that will go to waste because you sit at home listening to nonsense and fool-fool people,” he strongly asserted.
“The public narrative is unfortunately being shaped by quacks, false prophets, pseudo-intellectuals and people who are deliberate in misleading the public, and we must never cede the space of the public mind to those persons,” he cautioned.
According to the prime minister, social media is a “an uneditorialised space, which means that the information does not go through any process of vetting or checking.
“… So we are exposing a population, some of whom have not attained the standard level of education needed to properly vet and verify (information),” he claimed.
It is against that background why Holness urged the country’s tertiary institutions to push back against the misleading information relative to the vaccines.
“They (some citizens) are not information-literate, and so the universities have the duty and the responsibility (to push back).
“If the society is going to get through this (COVID pandemic)… we need to see our experts out there in the forefront combating the nonsense that is being placed in social media,” he further charged.prime