COVID Vaccinations amid conspiracy theories

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Raja Amin Afzal ACA
If you request a group of colleagues to join you and listen to actual details of a true event, you will notice hardly anyone joins, but if you offer them a movie to watch, almost all of them will jump towards it, notwithstanding the truth that they are aware of that it is a cent percent piece of fiction. This very behavior simply explains the human psyche i.e. they don’t like the truth and are fascinated by baseless but colorful stories and falsehoods. Such propensity of humans towards colorful falsehoods leads to the existence and prevalence of baseless rumors, false conspiracies and unscientific superstitions that cripple our society. These conspiracy theories act like thick forests and don’t allow the light of knowledge to pass through them. Even today, we are floating in a sea of such theories that love to explain the causes and effects of every unusual event that is otherwise inexplicable. The world still could not dispel the famous conspiracy theory labeling the human moon landing mission as a hoax or staged, an event that took place 51 years ago. People still believe Osama Bin Ladin is alive, climate change is a drama, aliens and ghosts exist and 9/11 was not real to name a few. Before proceeding further, it is relevant to know what a conspiracy theory is. The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as: “the theory that an event or phenomenon occurs as a result of a conspiracy between interested parties; spec. a belief that some covert but influential agency (typically political in motivation and oppressive in intent) is responsible for an unexplained event”. The history of conspiracy theories is as old as humanity itself; all religions, philosophies and political ideologies are to    some extent products and bye-products of conspiracy theories. To get a glimpse of what devastations and monstrosities they can bring to a society, one can evocate the conspiracy theories used by Hitler’s propaganda retinues that brought the entire world to the verge of apocalypse and massacred millions of people. In Pakistan, mayhems brought by them can be evidenced everywhere. Thanks to these theories, women education is in chaos, religious extremism is on its pinnacle, sectarianism is strengthening itself day by day, terrorism is engulfing hundreds of lives each year and polio is still out there mocking us to name a few. But most worrisome are the current conspiracy theories surrounding COVID 19 and its inoculation mechanisms, as they are resisting all the efforts designed to contain the deadly microbe which has already engulfed more than ten thousand lives in Pakistan. Since its birth, the COVID 19 has been explained with different types of bizarre theories; some called it an American agenda, Americans blamed Chinese for its deliberate creation, Pakistanis labelled it as a pernicious propaganda of the western world, religious clerics asserted that it is a wrath of Almighty Allah, others feared vaccine being a remote-control microchip, still others justified it as an antidote to population explosion and so on. In the presence of superfluous internet and social media, these theories have proliferated at a pace much faster than the COVID itself. Resultantly, the real challenge today is to first ‘vaccinate’ the minds stuffed with such theories before an immunization of the physical body itself is worked out. But unfortunately, that is not an easy task. WHO has identified vaccine hesitancy as one of the top ten threats to global health. An important question that finds its way in this ongoing discussion is why rational people buy into these theories so easily despite living in a world of easy to access information and knowledge. As discussed at the outset, humans in general love the colorful storified details in preference to bare and naked truths. A lack of knowledge, an unwilling attitude to carry out a quest and research and a propensity to rely on others especially trusted ones particularly relating to events that lack direct evidence are important contributors to such beliefs. Since knowledge is widespread, a single person cannot grasp all that is relevant to assess a difficult or unexplained situation. When an unusual event occurs, the curious brains seek possible explanations. Most people will resort to a specific set of information disseminated by their close trustees. Also, here play the hands of conspiracy theorists who fed them with made up reasons and justifications suited to get support or favor for a peculiar cause or agenda. In Pakistan, proper research needs to be carried out to sort out the different types of conspiracy theories and their believers and purveyors, in order to devise specific strategies to dispel these. Cass R. Stein, in his book “Conspiracy theories and other dangerous ideas” mentions that extra resistance by conspiracy theorists is generated in response to simple techniques applied to cater them. Direct attempts to dispel these theories lead to further fortification of these beliefs because when someone denies such theorists’ strongest commitments, the latter respond to it even more intensely. This is what happened to ‘polio vaccination campaigns’ initiated by the  government job which simply indicates to their ability. A person having a matric or intermediate degree can openly teach in private institutions only to take salary. It is a noteworthy matter that government institutions are going in loss day by day, and people prefer to go to private sectors. However, private institutions are getting more expensive gradually. Many of students pressgang to leave their study. Government needs to provide fund to its institutions to make them effective. Government also needs to take a strict action against of those teachers who only take salary and don’t go to school. It will influence to decrease the fee of private institutions so poor can send their kids to private sectors. Interview must be conducted while selecting a private teacher and they must have a reasonable degree.

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