Facebook Inc, which has been criticized by lawmakers and researchers for allowing vaccine misinformation to spread on its platforms, said on Monday it has started adding labels to posts that discuss the safety of the shots and will soon label all posts about the vaccines.
The social media company said in a blog post it is also launching a tool in the United States to give people information about where to get COVID-19 vaccines and adding a COVID-19 information area to its photo-sharing site Instagram.
False claims and conspiracies about the coronavirus vaccines have proliferated on social media platforms during the pandemic.
Facebook and Instagram, which recently tightened their policies after long taking a hands-off approach to vaccine misinformation, remain home to large accounts, pages and groups that promote false claims about the shots and can be easily found through keyword searches.
Facebook's Chief Product Officer Chris Cox said in an interview that the company had taken viral false claims "very seriously" but said there was "a huge gray area of people who have concerns...some of which some people would call misinformation and some of which other people would call doubt." "The best thing to do in that huge gray area is just to show up with authoritative information in a helpful way, be a part of the conversation and do it with health experts," he added.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
The company said it was labeling Facebook and Instagram posts that discuss the safety of COVID-19 vaccines with text saying the vaccines go through safety and effectiveness tests before approval.In the blog post, it also said that since expanding its list of banned false claims about the coronavirus and vaccines in February, it has removed an additional 2 million pieces of content from Facebook and Instagram. Facebook said it had also implemented temporary measures including reducing the reach of content from users who repeatedly share content marked false by fact-checkers.