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How do influencers help to beat COVID?

It has been a year and a half since the pandemic started, and since that the world population has been divided into two parts -- those who believe in coronavirus and those who do not. Guess who are the ones the White House decided to team up with?

On February 9 an online article was published. It started with a seemingly innocuous question about the legal definition of vaccines. Then over its next 3,400 words, it declared coronavirus vaccines were “a medical fraud” and said the injections did not prevent infections, provide immunity, or stop transmission of the disease.

Instead, the article claimed, the shots “alter your genetic coding, turning you into a viral protein factory that has no off-switch.”

Its statements were easily disprovable, but anyway, after the next few hours, the publication was translated from English into Spanish and Polish. It appeared on dozens of blogs and was picked up by anti-vaccination activists, who repeated the false claims online. The article also made its way to Facebook, where it reached 400,000 people.

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A person standing behind this “performance” is Joseph Mercola.

Dr. Mercola is a 67-years old osteopathic physician in Cape Coral, Fla. He has been a subject of criticism and government regulatory actions for the promotion of unproven or unapproved treatments for a long time. But most recently, he has become the chief spreader of coronavirus misinformation online.

Dr. Mercola has published over 600 articles on Facebook that cast doubt on Covid-19 vaccines since the pandemic began. It is obvious he is not the only vaccine skeptic, but he is the one with a far larger audience than others.

He began to promote vitamin supplements as a way to ward off the coronavirus. In a warning letter on Feb.18, the F.D.A. said Dr. Mercola had “misleadingly represented” what were “unapproved and misbranded products” on mercola.com as established Covid-19 treatments. In one of the interviews, Mercola also claimed that vaccines have been associated with “deaths and permanent neurological complications,” and he said vitamin D supplements were among “far more effective, less expensive and less risky alternatives.

To fight vaccine lies like these, the U.S. authorities start to collaborate with influencers

The C.D.C. reports unvaccinated Americans are 11 times more likely to die of Covid. The youth has the lowest inoculation rates of any eligible age group in the United States. Fewer than half of all Americans aged 18 to 39 are fully vaccinated, compared with more than two-thirds of those over 50, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

It might be because younger people are not the COVID “target audience”, or for some other reasons like dubious conspiracy theories on social networks, fake stories about the consequences of the vaccine (younger generation spend more time on the internet), but the fact remains the same. These days, young people are more likely to trust the advice of their favorite content creator than a mainstream celebrity, according to a 2018 study by the marketing agency MuseFind, the U.S. government made a kind of decision. 

“To reach these young people, the White House has enlisted an eclectic army of more than 50 Twitch streamers, YouTubers, TikTokers, and the 18-year-old pop star Olivia Rodrigo, all of them with enormous online audiences. State and local governments have begun similar campaigns, in some cases paying “local micro-influencers” — those with 5,000 to 100,000 followers — up to $1,000 a month to promote Covid-19 vaccines to their fans”, -- the New York Times.

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The idea here is to overwhelm questionable conspiracy theories by mentions and audience reach. 

Jason Harris, the chief executive of the advertising agency “Mekanism” says: “That’s the only way we’re going to have loud enough voices on social media to drown out all the misinfo that’s happening.”

One of the best, ok, let;s face it -- the best vaccine promotion was the one with instagram influencer @dudewithsign and Joe Biden. 

The post has more than 2,264,042 likes, let’s hope at least 10% of the people seen the publication were motivated to get a shot if they hadn’t before.

Influencers make a difference, and it becomes more and more obvious, whether we want it or not. By the way, we once had a post about the sign dude and more bloggers who are fun to follow. Check it out