March Round-Up: Conspiracies on COVID-19 Vaccines Debunked, Akufo-Addo, Pastor Chris Fact-checked

Fact-Check Ghana observed that during the vetting of the Minister-designate for the Ministry of Food and Agriculture Ministry in late February, the nominee, Dr Afriyie Akoto, made many false claims. In a report published, in early March, titled “Ministerial Vetting: Afriyie Akoto’s Cocktail of False Claims and Contradictions”, the team verified five (5) of his claims which included assertions that the government’s flagship planting for food and jobs programme was implemented without any donor funding support which Fact-Check Ghana debunked as false.

On COVID-19, the term “COVID long-haulers” made waves on both traditional and social media in the month of March after it emerged that COVID-19 could lead to a lot of health complications. These complications, according to experts, could last weeks to months after initial recovery thereby reducing the quality of life of patients treated from the virus.

Fact-Check Ghana looked at some of the post-COVID-19 complications recorded and announced by the various health centers for disease control around the world and how these complications impact the human body.

African countries were set to take delivery of doses of the AstraZeneca vaccines under the COVAX scheme as inoculations were set to commence and Ghana made history after she became the first country to receive some 600,000 doses of the vaccine through the United Nations-backed initiative in late February.

But that was not without conspiracies of age-related risks following reports from France and Germany suggesting that President Emmanuel Macron and Chancellor Angela Merkel rejected the jabs, few days after President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo received his jab.

 A publication by Ghanaweb.comknustnews.com, and other news outlets suggested Ghana took delivery of vaccines that “other countries had rejected over concerns of age-related risks”. Fact-Check Ghana verified these claims by reporting on what the World Health Organisation and European Union had said at the time about AstraZeneca. The WHO said:

“Taking the totality of available evidence into account, WHO recommends the vaccine for use in persons aged 65 years and older.”

It was revealing when the team had to fact-check popular Tele-evangelist, founder and president of LoveWorld Incorporated, also known as Christ Embassy, Pastor Chris Oyakhilome’s claims. He had claimed that wearing a face mask was not supported by any research while streaming his church event on Facebook. This got the internet talking after his live-streaming went viral.

He had previously made several conspiracies and controversial comments on COVID-19 since it was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation. Fact-Check Ghana debunked his claims in a report and provided responses from credible health and scientific sources.

Following reports of blood clot among some citizens in Europe following inoculations on the AstraZeneca vaccines which led to the suspension of vaccination campaigns across Europe, some Ghanaians became alarmed and began questioning the efficacy of the 600,000 vaccines received under the COVAX scheme.

 Fact-Check Ghana engaged the Manager of Expanded Programme on Immunisation at the Ghana Health Service, Dr Kwame Amponsa-Achiano, on the then rising concerns where he allayed the fears of citizens in this report.

In the same period, The African Centre for Disease Control and Prevention issued a statement allaying rising fears among citizens across the Continent in the wake of reported blood clots related to the use of the AstraZeneca vaccines by Oxford.

The World Health Organization was in a report dated March 23, revealed ‘The adverse events reported from Europe are not listed as side effects associated with the AstraZeneca vaccine. The CDC encouraged heads of state to continue to administer the vaccine to roll out the AstraZeneca vaccine as part of their vaccination campaigns adding “that the benefits accruable from the AstraZeneca COVID-19, continue to outweigh its risks.

Heard of Herd-Immunity? Fact-Check Ghana dipped into the hyphenated word after it became one of the most used words in March in the media space both in Ghana and abroad. In our report, “COVID-19 Vaccination: At What Point will Ghana Attain Herd Immunity?” the team dissected the word with mentions from clinical experts and scientists.

His Excellency, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo in his first State of Nation Address in his second term in office delivered on March 9, at the Floor of Parliament made some false, misleading, and contradictory claims when he elaborated government’s contribution to education, food production, and funding for anti-corruption institutions.

Five of his claims were verified and findings presented under the headline; “SONA 2021: Here’s a Mixture of Akufo-Addo’s False, Misleading and Contradictory Claims.”

This is how Fact-Check Ghana combated misinformation on COVID-19 and current affairs in Ghana in the month of March.

The monthly fact-checked round-ups are part of a project supported by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

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