Australia establishes ‘myth busting’ team

The Australian government has established a “myth-busting unit” to address coronavirus vaccine misinformation, a Minister revealed on Monday.

Greg Hunt, the Minister for Health, revealed that the unit, a joint endeavour between the Departments of Health and Home Affairs, was “quietly” established in 2020 amid concerns over false vaccine information spreading rapidly on social media, Xinhua news agency reported.

“Some of these anti-vaxxers are peddling, frankly, false and clearly irresponsible views,” Hunt said.

“We don’t want to give too much air to some of the silliest ideas but we do want to provide public reassurance (we are) combating the misinformation on those ideas which would in any way falsely have some impact on public confidence.”

A survey published by Australian National University (ANU) researchers in February found that vaccine scepticism is on the rise in Australia.

More than 20 per cent of respondents said they would “probably” or “definitely” not volunteer for a free vaccine compared to 12.7 per cent in August 2020 while the proportion of those who said they “definitely” would fell from 58.5 per cent to 43.7 per cent.

Hunt revealed the existence of the myth-busting unit as he announced on Sunday the arrival of the first 300,000 doses of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine to Australia.

The first doses of the vaccine are set to be administered on March 8 after testing by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).

In a statement, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the arrival meant that “we will now be able to scale up the vaccination rollout to our priority groups, including our most vulnerable Australians and to our frontline border and health workers”.