Until a few years ago, superstition and rumours could be fought with sustained, large scale communication and education campaigns by governments and other organizations.
This was because the average person on the street did not have the means to communicate with large numbers of people and the velocity of information flow through communities was much lower. Mass media could be used to effectively counter the misinformation.
Now with social media and chat applications, rumours, fake news and superstition spread so easily and so fast that the political behaviour of the people in several countries has changed. Governments have changed as well. Some countries lurching to the right and others to the left.
But it’s not just change of governments. Deadly diseases that were eradicated or on the verge of eradication have resurfaced. This is being driven by anti-vaccine campaigns. Herd immunity is threatened in several communities. An example is the recent and increasing outbreaks of measles in US, Europe, India and some other parts of the world too.
The dynamics of anti-vaccine behaviour is however, very different in the developed world and in India.
In the developed world, the anti-vaxxer is almost always educated and typically has a college degree. The misinformation that causes the behaviour is fairly sophisticated. Countries are now fighting this by making vaccinations mandatory for school attendance.
In India, the average anti-vaxxer has low education levels or is a person easily influenced by traditional group dynamics like religion, caste, peer behaviour etc. In this scenario, making vaccinations mandatory for school attendance may not be effective enough. I wonder what the Governments of India can do to fight this and ensure vaccine compliance.
What is common between all of these anti vaxxers in the developed and developing world is social media and chat applications like Facebook and WhatsApp. These are the platforms that drive and sustain such misinformation, beliefs and behaviour.
Whatever the commonality or the difference, we are all now threatened by the return of diseases that had been nearly eliminated or already eradicated.
Here is an article on the return of measles in India –
And here is a video about what the social media platforms are doing to combat the misinformation about vaccinations. In my opinion, just as in the fake news problem, they are doing too little for vaccination misinformation – https://www.wsj.com/video/what-big-tech-is-and-isnt-doing-to-fight-antivaccine-misinformation/6825998A-5977-4A64-9ABD-C51AF08A4061.html