These Kamloops doctors leveraged the power of social media to curb COVID-19 misinformation | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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These Kamloops doctors leveraged the power of social media to curb COVID-19 misinformation

Image Credit: ADOBE STOCK
December 18, 2020 - 7:30 AM

Kamloops doctors have taken to social media to answer burning questions about COVID-19 and the Pfizer vaccine to promote accurate discussions with reliable sources.

Health-care workers in long-term care facilities and intensive care units are the first to get vaccinated in British Columbia.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said last week an initial shipment of 4,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will be available at two clinics in the Vancouver Coastal and Fraser health authorities before immunization is eventually expanded to 30 sites.

READ MORE: First COVID-19 vaccination given in British Columbia

Dr. Elizabeth Parfitt, an infectious diseases consultant at Royal Inland Hospital, and Dr. Annemie Raath a family physician who works in acute inpatient care at the hospital, hosted a set of question and answer sessions for residents on the well-known Caremongering Kamloops Facebook group last week.

Dr. Parfitt said she’s been trying to engage on social media throughout the pandemic, and sessions well received. They mostly focused on questions around children, allergies, immunity and how long will the vaccine protect against COVID-19.

“We have had discussions amongst colleagues at the hospital and in the community about the need to thank the community for their efforts which have been powerful, as well as to try to promote thoughtful and accurate discussion using reliable sources. We also think it’s really important to bring a recognizable face to discussions around the vaccine and let our community know that we think it’s clear at this point that this not only appears very safe but also more effective than expected,” Dr. Parfitt said.

“I think the timing is right and people appreciate hearing from local voices. I think hearing from local doctors and other health-care workers that they feel ready and comfortable to receive the vaccine could help to reassure the community as it is natural to worry a little bit in this situation.”

Other local physicians are also taking the time to answer questions on social media, she said.

For Dr. Raath, it’s been frustrating for medical professionals to see misinformation online, but serves as a reminder that medical professionals and other residents’ social media feeds are often very different.

“I think we easily forget that as medical professionals, our social media is automatically filled with other medical professionals and information is just filtered differently. We have more experience with sifting through misinformation," Dr. Raath said. " I've realized what a privilege this is and I think we've been looking for a way to bring that kind of ‘I have a friend that's a doctor’ feel to a broader audience in order to empower them.”

During the online discussions, both doctors were appreciative of the audience and said this helps them prepare for patient questions around the COVID-19 vaccination, but noted online discussions aren’t always positive.

“Some misinformation is dealt out with such force, that it can seem very convincing, and also very difficult to confront. I've learned that it can be pretty unsatisfying to engage with people that aren't receptive, but I also have a hard time seeing how people that are looking for information get swept away by the current of fear and conspiracy," Dr. Raath said. "I'm really thankful that an opportunity like this presented itself to give accurate information to a receptive audience."

“It’s easy to focus on the negative numbers, like the numbers of cases or deaths, but there’s also an unwritten set of numbers that includes avoided hospitalizations, avoided deaths, and of course avoidance of overall medical care being poorer than usual because of COVID creating too many demands on the system,” she said.

The post, which was created Dec. 11, has been shared 113 times and gathered 60 comments. Go here to check it out.

Both doctors will continue to engage with online audiences when the need arises.

- With files from The Canadian Press

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