FMQs: Concerns raised about 'misinformation' around Covid vaccine

MSPs are to be armed with information to counter “dangerous myths and misinformation” about the Covid-19 vaccines, Nicola Sturgeon has revealed.

The First Minister said it was vital that government, politicians, media and social media took their “responsibilities seriously” to ensure people were not deterred from taking the vaccine.

The issue of misinformation was raised in First Minister's Questions on Thursday by Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard, who said it was in everyone's interests that "as many people as possible” receive the vaccine.

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He said: “Public confidence is critical to that. This vaccine has been tested to the highest possible standard. However, we’re already being faced with the spread of dangerous misinformation which seeks to persuade people otherwise. Every member of this Parliament has a role to play to make sure the public know the vaccine is safe and in encouraging people to come forward and be vaccinated.”

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon attends First Minister's Questions. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/AFP via Getty Images

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Asking what research the government had done on “vaccine scepticism”, Mr Leonard said there needed to be a “plan to counter it” that should be shared with the Parliament.

Ms Sturgeon agreed there was a responsibility on MSPs to “persuade people to come forward for vaccination, that is it’s safe and in their interest and in our collective interest that the maximum number of people take up the opportunity” to be vaccinated.

She said: "Although this first vaccine to be given authorisation has gone through a process that is quick, that is a real credit to the global science community and no corners have been cut in the regulatory process. All normal procedures have been followed and people can have confidence in this vaccine.”

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard has raised concerns about misinformation spreading about the Covid vaccine

She said the government carried out weekly polling to assess public attitudes “on a whole range of matters associated with Covid”.

Ms Sturgeon said: “The health secretary will make information available to MSPs next week so they can counter some of the myths and misinformation that we can already see on social media about vaccination

“It's absolutely vital that everyone, government, MSPS, but also media – and social media companies in particular – take this responsibility very seriously. I’m not in one of the early priority groups for the vaccine, but as soon as I’m eligible I will be there with my sleeve rolled up.”

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