Celebrities and influencers who push fake facts on social media about COVID-19 are being targeted by a team of myth-busters — a group that was set up by the government.
The Department of Home Affairs brought together a team of 30 health experts last year to tackle high profile Australians such as chef Pete Evans and actor Isabel Lucas who push out fake facts about COVID-19, reported the Daily Telegraph.
The team will also focus on bizarre conspiracy theories in a bid to overcome any public uncertainty about the vaccine, which could lead to a lower uptake, after a recent health department survey found 27 per cent of Australians were still unsure about getting vaccinated.
Bogus claims that have been made include that the vaccine causes people to become sterile or it changes people’s DNA, a Home Affairs Department report revealed.
Other myths peddled say that the vaccine is being used as a cover to insert surveillance chips and that Microsoft founder Bill Gates has paid Prime Minister Scott Morrison to roll out the jabs.
Shocking false claims made without evidence include that COVID-19 tests are being used to harvest DNA for the Chinese government, 5G is the reason for millions of deaths and the virus is actually a scam and that the vaccine contains “nanoparticles that will enable recipients to be controlled by others”.
The unit tracks falsehoods being spread on social media and uses a number of measures to tackle the misinformation, including approaching social media platforms directly, responding to online posts and holding briefings with well-known commentators, editors and journalists.
Chief medical officer Paul Kelly told the Daily Telegraph it was critical people had the facts.
“Allowing people to access the most accurate and reliable information is a key aim of the government during the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine program,” he said.
“We want to understand the concerns Australians have so we can ensure they get the scientifically proven information they need that’s going to encourage more people to have that vaccine.”