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Vatican, medical groups call for greater fight against vaccine disinformation

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Vatican, medical groups call for greater fight against vaccine disinformation
Pope Francis is shown during a mass at St. Peter's basilica in the Vatican, on April 4. The Pontifical Academy for Life, the World Medical Association and German Medical Association called for a greater effort against misinformation about the coronavirus vaccine and to ease vaccine hesitancy. File photo by Stefano Spaziani/UPI | License Photo

July 2 (UPI) -- The French-based World Medical Association, German Medical Association and the Vatican's Pontifical Academy for Life issued a joint statement Friday, calling for a global effort against disinformation about the coronavirus vaccine and to ease vaccine hesitancy.

The organizations said the flourish of false information about the vaccine and hesitancy are grounded in long-held suspicions about Western medicine and inequities. They said more must be done to overcome such hurdles to save lives around the world.

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"Millions around the world are still suffering the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccination is widely seen as a fast and effective way to control the spread of the virus and save human lives," the statement said.

The groups blamed "vaccine nationalism" with wealthy countries quickly signing agreements for vaccine doses for their populations while poor and developing countries were left unable to protect their own populations.

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"This left many developing countries at a disadvantage due to financial restrictions and limitations on production capacity," the statement said.

The organizations said it has also seen where "skepticism and mistrust" about the vaccine has slowed getting people vaccinated in even richer countries. The groups admitted that vaccine hesitancy "is a complex issue."

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"Some reluctance in disadvantaged communities is rooted in historical inequities, breaches of trust in medical research, negative experiences with healthcare and suspicion about pharmaceutical companies' behavior focused on profit," the organizations said.

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"But a more pernicious form of vaccine hesitancy is driven by unfounded and misleading claims and myths, including disinformation about side effects, which are amplified by social media and other means of enhanced communication," they said.

The three organizations said they will join forces to ensure equitable global access to vaccines and confront vaccine hesitancy by sending a clear message about the safety and necessity of vaccines to counter false information.

The World Health Organization's COVAX program was developed as a global effort to send millions of doses to poor and developing countries.

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President Joe Biden announced last month that the United States has committed $4 billion to COVAX while giving 75% of 19 million doses of excess supply of vaccines to the organization, Latin American and Caribbean countries.

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