Successful strategy change to thwart anti-vax campaigns


Tui Ora chief executive Hayden Wano said there had been a deliberate release of

SIMON O’CONNOR / Tips

Tui Ora chief executive Hayden Wano said there had been a deliberate dissemination of “propaganda and disinformation” in communities like Waitara and Marfell. (File photo)

A change in strategy to increase Covid-19 vaccination rates in communities deliberately targeted by a “propaganda and disinformation” campaign is working, a Taranaki health official said.

Tui Ora chief executive Hayden Wano said Waitara and Marfell, two areas that were lagging behind in terms of immunization, are now moving in the right direction due to a revamped approach based on building relationships with those who are still on the verge of getting the jab.

Wano said the game plan change was, in part, a response to a “conscious effort” by some to spread disinformation about Covid-19.

This included a flyer in Marfell and a sticker campaign in Waitara, which was linked to a conspiracy group known to promote anti-vax sentiment.

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The strategy to increase immunization rates in communities like Waitara has shifted clinics like this from knocking on doors.  (File photo)

SIMON O’CONNOR / Tips

The strategy to increase immunization rates in communities like Waitara has shifted clinics like this from knocking on doors. (File photo)

Wano said it had become clear that the approach to mass vaccination needs to change in communities like Waitara and Marfell in response to targeted attempts.

Working alongside Te Aranga (the Covid-19 response arm of the eight iwi of Taranaki), Wano said workers with ties to the two areas went knocking on doors, where they most often already knew people. who had not yet received a vaccine.

Rather than confront the misinformation, he said the relational, door-to-door approach provides a “credible voice and alternative” for people, with the ability to sit down and discuss their concerns with them.

The Disinformation Center, part of Te PÅ«naha Matatini / Center for Research Excellence, has been studying the spread of disinformation and disinformation since February 2020, examining various online platforms, including Facebook, Instagram and Telegram.

As of mid-August of this year, a working paper written by researchers at the center said there had been a drastic increase in publications and engagement that “show an increasing growth and spread trajectory, widens and deepens every week “.

Protests like this one in New Plymouth under the banner of the Freedom and Rights Coalition have drawn hundreds of people.  (File photo)

SIMON O’CONNOR / Tips

Protests like this one in New Plymouth under the banner of the Freedom and Rights Coalition have drawn hundreds of people. (File photo)

This included a sharp increase in the popularity of Covid-19-specific disinformation, as well as “dangerous speech” linked to far-right ideologies.

One of the themes of the content defined by disinformation was the emphasis on the state over the individual rights of people.

While the dean of Taranaki Cathedral, Jay Ruka, said he understood the “sentiment” around the position on rights and freedom, whose words had a dominant presence over the protest signs used to s Opposing the government making vaccination compulsory in Taranaki and around Aotearoa, he felt there was a deeper story that had not been recognized.

The dean of Taranaki Cathedral, Jay Ruka, believes a refocus on relationships, or whakawhānautanga, is needed to combat the divide caused by government vaccine mandates.  (File photo)

SIMON O’CONNOR / Tips

The dean of Taranaki Cathedral, Jay Ruka, believes a refocus on relationships, or whakawhānautanga, is needed to combat the divide caused by government vaccine mandates. (File photo)

Thus, the individual rights and freedoms argument was intrinsically linked to land ownership and colonization, which he saw as the “fundamental case of injustice” in New Zealand.

Ruka said he did not want in any way to downplay the “real pain” that people who had lost their jobs due to vaccination warrants had suffered, but felt it was “the easy option” to describe the situation like “them against us”.

The church leader said he is trying to look at the issues from all sides and understand different points of view.

“You try to be quick to listen and slow to judge.”

While there have been no quick fixes to tackling misinformation and disinformation, Ruka felt the need to refocus on the importance of relationships, or whakawhānautanga, with others.


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