Hard-hit communities battling rumors about COVID-19 vaccine

LAWRENCE, Mass. — After battling the spread of the COVID-19 virus for months, the state is now battling the spread of vaccine misinformation.

25 Investigates has been closely following vaccination rates in communities across our state.

We’ve reported on the issue of access and work to reduce barriers to the vaccine.

Now, rumors on social media are impacting some Massachusetts communities hit hardest by the pandemic.

Jasmine Garcia came to a mobile vaccination site in her Lawrence neighborhood to get her second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

A mobile clinic in the city is just one way state and public health officials are trying to improve access to the vaccine for many who live here.

We found access isn’t the only issue, it’s also hesitancy.

“I hear a lot of you know, things, you know, conspiracy theories, such as like, you know, of course, like something’s in the medicine, something can you know, in the long run affects your body.” said Garcia.

Erika Alvarado is a nurse at the mobile site who says she’s regularly battling the spread of misinformation.

“I think the biggest issue that we’re seeing is all that people are telling the people of Lawrence that don’t get vaccinated because they’re putting chips in, which is a total lie,” said Alvarado.

That’s something 25 Investigates also heard from Edwin Garcia at a walk-in vaccination clinic at a New Bedford Stop & Shop.

“All the stories that we have been hearing through the internet. Google some of the stuff on Facebook, especially TikTok... it’s unbelievable.” said Garcia.

TikTok came up often as a place where vaccine rumors are flying.

One example: the vaccine magnet challenge. In this hoax, posters claim metal is in the vaccines, causing magnets to stick to your injection site. Fact-checking website Snopes says that is false.

“Unfortunately we’re playing catchup to make certain we’re getting quality information to everyone, that’s accessible to all populations.” says Carlene Pavlos, executive director of the Mass Public Health Association.

She’s not surprised to hear about the spread of misinformation in hard-hit communities, especially ones where many residents don’t speak English as a first language.

“We should have been doing this months and months ago to build the trust in the quality information that we have about a vaccine that is really safe and effective,” said Pavlos.

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