A Professor of Virologist, Oyewale Tomori, says healthcare professionals are also guilty of spreading and perpetuating misinformation about COVID-19.
Tomori, a former President of the Nigerian Academy of Science, stated this during a virtual Scientific Conference titled: “Science and Mis-Science of COVID-19”.
It was reported that the lecture was organised by the Medical and Dental Consultants Association of Nigeria (MDCAN), University College Hospital (UCH) Chapter, Ibadan.
Tomori noted that misinformation about the global health crisis could kill people faster than the actual virus.
According to him, examples of COVID-19 misinformation include false and misleading public health advice, fraudulent coronavirus vaccines and treatments as well as conspiracy theories.
“As healthcare professionals, some of us have been guilty of spreading rumours and rumours have a way of ballooning and overcoming whatever facts we have.
“We spread information without first checking whether it is correct or not, then before you know, it becomes a major issue.
“A few days ago we were told that Nigeria had gotten a COVID-19 vaccine from Russia, which to me is one of the greatest lies that have been told since the outbreak of the virus,’’ he said.
The renowned virologist said that another cause of misinformation about the actual situation of COVID-19 was the contradiction between figures released by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and those of the states.
“I have been concerned about what happens when the NCDC brings out data for us on a daily basis without giving us the full details of what is happening.
“I have been at committee meetings in which the figures that NCDC publishes is different from those reported by the people directly involved in conducting the coronavirus tests.
“I remember a case of Sokoto when NCDC put up 900 cases and the man in charge of the laboratory said he had actually recorded over 2000 cases.
“How have we gotten ourselves into this problem?
“This is what happened when the government fails to provide detailed information, it will create gaps and the gaps are being filled with rumours which will eventually eclipse the facts.’’
Tomori said it is the duty and responsibility of healthcare workers, especially frontline COVID-19 professionals, to lead the fight against coronavirus misinformation, disinformation and myths.
“Whenever we have the opportunity to confront such mis-science and misinformation we must confront those with facts of science.
“As scientists, we are well placed because of our position and knowledge to provide the real facts and information to our people,’’ he said.
The virologist also warned against complacency both on the part of the government and the citizens, adding that the pandemic was far from over.
The State Coordinator, Emergency Operation Centre, Dr Taiwo Ladipo, said that healthcare professionals also contributed to COVID-19 stigma at the onset of the pandemic.
He said that stigma around the virus has since reduced with increased awareness and scientific evidence.