World Health Organisation (WHO)

  • Russia’s claim West Africa’s monkeypox variant originated from Nigeria is misleading

    Claim: Russian defence ministry claims that the West African Monkeypox variant originated from Nigeria.

    The claim by the Russian defence ministry that the West African Monkeypox variant originated from Nigeria is misleading. There is no such WHO report that said categorically the West African variant of the Monkeypox originated from Nigeria. 

    Full Text

    Recently, Russia’s Ministry of Defence released a report it described as the results of an analysis the ministry conducted. In the report, Russia’s defence ministry claimed that the West African strain of Monkeypox from Nigeria, citing a World Health Organisation (WHO) report 

    “According to a WHO report, the introduction of the West African strain of the monkeypox pathogen originated from Nigeria, another state in which the United States has deployed its biological infrastructure,” the ministry said. 

    Monkeypox is a viral zoonosis (a virus transmitted to humans from animals) with symptoms similar to those seen in the past in smallpox patients, though clinically less severe. 

    Verification

    WHO reports: The origins of the West African clade of Monkeypox

    The WHO has published two reports on monkeypox  that have direct mentions of Nigeria. The first is titled “Monkeypox” and was published on 19th  May, 2022. The second report titled “Multi-country monkeypox outbreak in non-endemic countries” was published on 21st May 2022. While both reports indicated the presence of the West African clade Monkeypox, none of the reports mentioned that it originated in Nigeria. 

    In the first report, “Monkeypox,” Nigeria is pinpointed to have experienced a large outbreak of an unspecified type of Monkeypox.

    “Since 2017, Nigeria has experienced a large outbreak, with over 500 suspected cases and over 200 confirmed cases and a case fatality ratio of approximately 3%. Cases continue to be reported until today.”

    The report further indicates that the first report of Monkeypox outside Africa was in the US, with sources from Ghana and The Gambia.

    “In 2003, the first monkeypox outbreak outside of Africa was in the United States of America and was linked to contact with infected pet prairie dogs. These pets had been housed with Gambian pouched rats and dormice that had been imported into the country from Ghana. This outbreak led to over 70 cases of monkeypox in the U.S.”

    The report further added that Monkeypox (unspecified) was subsequently found in travellers from Nigeria to Israel, the UK, the US, and Singapore. 

    “Monkeypox has also been reported in travellers from Nigeria to Israel in September 2018, to the United Kingdom in September 2018, December 2019, May 2021 and May 2022, to Singapore in May 2019, and to the United States of America in July and November 2021. In May 2022, multiple cases of monkeypox were identified in several non-endemic countries.”

    Monkeypox endemic countries are: Benin, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Ghana (identified in animals only), Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Nigeria, the Republic of the Congo, and Sierra Leone. Benin and South Sudan have documented importations in the past. 

    Nonetheless, the reports say that countries currently reporting cases of the West African clade are Cameroon and Nigeria.

    Even if this was the material  the Russian Ministry of Defence was referring to, further data presented on the same report, specifically on “cases of Monkeypox in endemic countries  between 15th December 2021 to May 2022” showed that Cameroon had reported cases of Monkeypox before Nigeria. 

    A screenshot from WHO reports shows Cameroon had registered a case before Nigeria 

    Although Nigeria is widely mentioned as a country with cases of Monkeypox in both reports, it should be noted that none of them specifically insinuated or specifically mentioned the West African variant originated in Nigeria. 

    Looking closely, the statement from the Russian Defence Ministry seems to lack accuracy and reliability.

    “According to a WHO report, the introduction of the West African strain of the monkeypox pathogen originated from Nigeria.”

    The statement failed to mention the title of the WHO report,  failed to provide a quote, failed to state when the WHO report was released, and even failed to provide a link or reference to the said WHO report. 

    Dr Desu from the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) clarified that the origin of the West African variant of the Monkeypox has not been categorically  stated.

    “Nobody can categorically say where the West African variant of the Monkeypox originated from. Although the variant resurfaced in Nigeria in 2017,  there is no available literature that says where it originated from.”

    Conclusion

    The claim by the Russian defence ministry that the West African Monkeypox variant originated from Nigeria is misleading. There is no such WHO report that said categorically the West African variant of the Monkeypox originated from Nigeria. 

  • True! Sucking pregnant woman’s breast makes baby’s breastfeeding easier after delivery

    Claim: Sucking a pregnant woman’s breast prepares her for breastfeeding after delivery.

    The claim that sucking a pregnant woman’s breast prepares her for breastfeeding after delivery is true. However, it is not suitable for all pregnant women.

    Full Text

    On August 5, 2021, a Chief Nursing Sister, Roseline Oladimeji, advised pregnant women to allow their husbands to suck their breasts to prepare them for breastfeeding after delivery.

    She said, “Allow your husbands to suck your breasts during pregnancy. Apart from bonding, it will help the nipples to be out and make it easier for your baby to latch on.

    ‘You can also rub Vaseline on your nipples at night before going to sleep. It also helps to soften it (the breasts)’. the nursing sister added.

    She urged pregnant women to prepare their breasts during pregnancy to avoid lactation problems after delivery.

    Screenshot of the article

    What is Breastfeeding?

    Breastfeeding is when a mother feeds her baby breast milk, usually directly from the breast, and it is also called nursing. Breast milk has been said to provide an infant with essential calories, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients for optimal growth, health and development. Breastfeeding is beneficial to both a mother and her infant and also offers an important opportunity for the pair to bond.

    According to the World Health Organization, WHO breast milk contains all the nutrients an infant needs in the first six months of life. And, while some infants born at term can breastfeed directly following birth, some term infants and many preterm infants may not be able to do so for various reasons and thus require feeding by alternative methods.

    These methods may include cups, spoons, syringes, parental feeding tubes or feeding bottles or treats. However, the inability to breastfeed directly may be only temporary or permanent depending on the reasons behind it.

    One of such reasons is because breastfeeding hurts. Pain while breastfeeding is usually down to sore, tender nipples, especially once the milk ‘comes in’ around two or four days after giving birth. With the baby feeding every couple of hours, it means the problem can worsen quickly with some mothers finding their nipples crack, bleed, or become blistered.

    So, does sucking a pregnant woman’s breast really prepare her for breastfeeding after delivery?

    The Chief Medical Director, Mother and Child Hospital Akure, Dr Banke Oluwafemi, said it is true sucking a pregnant woman’s breast helps breastfeeding after delivery but it is not applicable and suitable to all pregnant women.

    she said “it is true because it will help the nipples to shoot out. and the alternative is that when the woman is having her bath, she uses her hand to pull out the nipples. But there are some women that can not stand that stage of pregnancy. But it is also good to find solutions to whatever issues that could arise, so that there won’t be frustration between the mother and the baby in terms of breastfeeding subsequently.”

    “For women with retracted nipples, there are existing methods we use in the hospital like syringes. It is true but not all pregnant women can tolerate this, because she could get stimulated which could lead to an irritable uterus and she could start contracting which is not a palatable condition and that is why such a method is only feasible for women who can tolerate it.” she added.

    A Consultant Pediatrician with the University of Medical Science Teaching Hospital, Ondo, UNIMEDTH, Dr. Olasehinde Bello, said it is medically correct that sucking a pregnant woman’s breast helps breastfeeding after delivery but the society does not encourage it.

    He said, “it is true to a large extent but because of the peculiarities of our environment such things have really not been spoken off. However, the most important thing is for the areola to get stimulated and other methods come into play here. But it is good to note that breast pumps are not good stimulants and as such we advocate that the woman uses her fingers to stimulate the areolas.”

    He also added that the baby also stimulates the breast after delivery by sucking it because the more the baby sucks, the more the mother lactates (produces milk).

    This position is also supported by the World Health Organization WHO, which reveals that infants should be put to the mother’s breast shortly after birth to keep skin to skin contact when they have the strongest instinct to suckle the mother’s nipples.

    Other studies also show that to stimulate the nipples and remove milk from the breast, while ensuring an adequate supply and a good flow of milk, a baby needs to be well attached so that a baby can suckle effectively. Difficulties are said to occur only because a baby does not take the breast into its mouth properly and does fail to suckle effectively.

    Conclusion

    The claim that sucking a pregnant woman’s breast prepares her for breastfeeding after delivery is true. However, it is not suitable for all pregnant women as some of them get irritable uteruses or start to contract a major health challenge during pregnancy.

    The researcher produced this fact check article per the Dubawa 2021 Kwame KariKari Fellowship partnership with Crest FM to facilitate the ethos of “truth” in journalism and enhance media literacy in the country.

  • Should you avoid pain relievers, anesthesia for two years after COVID-19 vaccination?

    Claim: A viral WhatsApp message claims taking pain relievers or anesthesia after COVID-19 vaccination is dangerous and both should be avoided for two years.

    The claim that diclofenac or anesthesia should be avoided after vaccination is false and misleading as our findings and WHO’s response shows this.

    Full Text

    Aches or pain are common side effects of coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine. Vaccination side effects show that the vaccine is teaching the immune system how to recognize and attack SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19). To relieve this pain, some vaccinated persons turn to pain relievers or killers.

    A recent viral WhatsApp message claims that pain relievers like diclofenac should be avoided for two years after taking COVID-19 vaccine.

    According to this message, the adverse effects of the vaccine and pain relievers have been fatal, making reference to a doctor who allegedly killed his wife by injecting her with diclofenac after COVID-19 vaccination.

    “PLS IF YOU HAVE BEEN VACCINATED FOR COVID 19 AVOID DICLOFENAC OR ANY ANAESTHESIA FOR THE NEXT TWO YEARS. THE ADVERSE EFFECTS OF THE VACCINE WITH THESE HAVE BEEN FATAL.”

    Excerpt of the viral WhatsApp message.

    Screenshot of the viral WhatsApp message.

    Verification

    Taking a close look at this claim, Dubawa noted this claim sounded and looked like the one fact-checked earlier in April, 2021.

    While the April claim says taking Pain killers after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine is dangerous and can lead to death, the recent claim says to avoid diclofenac and any other anesthesia if vaccinated. 

    Both claims seem to be tied to the same story of a doctor who killed his wife by injecting her with a dose of Diclofenac after she had earlier received the COVID-19 vaccine. Dubawa’s earlier check however showed that the woman’s death was not vaccine related.

    Dubawa conducted a keyword search on Anesthesia and pain relievers.

    Anesthesia

    Anesthesia are medicines used during tests and surgical operations to numb sensation in certain areas of the body or induce sleep to prevent pain and discomfort.

    This search led to checks by Quint and India.com  discrediting the claim that getting anesthesia after vaccination is dangerous 

    Pain relievers

    Pain relievers are medicines that reduce or relieve headaches, sore muscles, arthritis, or other aches and pains. There are different pain medicines, with advantages and risks. 

    Some types of pain respond better to certain medicines than others and each person may also have a slightly different response to a pain reliever. Pain relievers go by many names; Analgesics, Narcotics, Painkillers, Pain medicine etc.

    Types of pain relievers

    There are different types of pain relievers but they can be classified into two types! Over-the-counter pain relievers and prescribed pain relievers.

    Over-the-counter (OTC): These are pain medications available at stores for any adult to purchase. They include; Acetaminophen, Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) ( under which Ibuprofen and Diclofenac fall under), Combination drugs (contain both acetaminophen and aspirin, an NSAID), and Topical (cream, gel, spray or patch) that can be applied directly to the skin.

    Prescription: These medications are only available with a prescription from a healthcare provider as they provide stronger pain relief. They treat severe or chronic pain. These include; Antidepressants, Anti-seizure medications, Muscle relaxers, Opioids, Steroids and Topical.

    Pain relievers and vaccine, what you should know

    A look at studies and reports show that the arguments around pain relievers and vaccines is on the possibility of pain relievers curbing the necessary immune system response necessary to fight the virus like this study shows not on any health danger

    The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) in it’s recent report in June on how to relieve COVID-19 side effects warns against pain killers before vaccination but notes it can be taken afterwards with due consultation with your doctor.

    Experience of vaccinated persons

    Dubawa also reached out to persons who have been vaccinated in Nigeria to get their experience if any with pain relievers.

    Mr Richard Akinwunmi, who has gotten his complete dose (two dose) of the Astrazeneca vaccine explained he took ibuprofen after his first dose and there was no adverse effect. 

    “For my first dose, no pain until the night of that day. I experienced a heavy shoulder and muscle spasms so I took ibuprofen for 3 days and a lot of water.

    For my Second dose, I started feeling feverish (malaria kind) almost immediately and I took a lot of water and paracetamol for 3 days.”

    Excerpt of Mr Richard’s response.

    Alhassan Bala on the other hand said he only took paracetamol.

    “Maybe because I am the type of person that hates pills, I only took paracetamol after I started experiencing fever a few hours after the dose. The fever went away after about 24hours.”

    Excerpt of Alhassan’s response. 

    Just like Alhassan, Lateef Sanni also took paracetamol which he said was recommended by the health officials where he got his vaccine and he was fine afterwards.

    “I only took paracetamol if that qualifies as a pain reliever. The doctors instructed that if I feel funny that I should use paracetamol. And that was what I did. Immediately I took it, the malaria-like symptoms I had disappeared.”

    Excerpt of Mr Lateef’s response.

    Expert opinion

    Speaking to health officials, Dubawa gathered pain relievers can be taken after vaccination not before.

    A medical officer, Lynda Effiong-Agim said it is not advisable to take pain relievers before vaccination but they can be taken afterwards as long as the person has no previous contraindication using NSAIDS.

    “If the person previously had no contraindication to using NSAIDS then there is no issue because NSAIDS aren’t for everyone. However the NSAID is not to be taken in advance before vaccination, it is afterwards to help with pain, e.t.c.”

    Excerpt of Dr Lynda’s comment.

    Another health official, a gynaecologist, Dr Monday Idoko, at Garki hospital Abuja said the claim is not scientifically justifiable and if true maybe a coincidence.

    On paracetamol which most of the vaccinated persons we spoke to said they took, he clarified it is also part of pain relievers.

    “But the claims aren’t scientifically justifiable. It may be a coincidence. Diclofenac is an abused drug bought over the counter so if it were true, we would have had a lot of these cases.”

    Excerpt of Dr Idoko’s comment.

    Dubawa also reached out to the World Health Organisation (WHO) via email. The organisation responded saying there are no recommendations that diclofenac or anesthesia should be avoided for two years following vaccination.

    The WHO added that pain killers may be used for injection site pain following vaccination, but generally paracetamol is what is recommended.

    “Diclofenac is an anti-inflammatory drug, and not an anaesthetic agent. The oral preparation of diclofenac is used to reduce inflammation and pain. The injectable version of the drug is only recommended for severe pain, often post-operative pain, and given under close medical supervision.

    Anaphylactic reactions have been reported following diclofenac, which from the news reports is felt to be the cause of death in the doctor in India.

    “Pain killers may be used for injection site pain following vaccination, but generally paracetamol is what is recommended. There are no recommendations that diclofenac or anaesthesia should be avoided for 2 years following vaccination.”

    Excerpt of WHO’s response 

    Conclusion

    The claim that diclofenac or anesthesia should be avoided after vaccination is false and misleading as our findings and WHO’s response shows this.

  • WHO did not sanction claim on seven brain damaging habit circulating on Whatsapp

    Claim: A viral infographic shared on WhatsApp has a claim that the World Health Organisation listed seven brain-damaging habits.

    The infographic did not originate from the WHO and there is no research to show these habits directly affect the brain.

    Full Text

    A viral infographic on WhatsApp has a claim tagged ‘7 biggest brain-damaging habits’. These habits were said to have been identified by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

    These habits were listed as; missing breakfast, sleeping late, high sugar consumption, more sleeping specifically in the morning, eating while watching the Television (TV) or computer, wearing a cap/scarf or socks while sleeping, and blocking or stopping urine.

    The image which carries the logo of the WHO requests receivers to not just read but forward to as many people they care about.

    Infographic going viral on WhatsApp.

    Verification

    Dubawa first observed some grammatical errors like the fourth habit identified as “more sleeping specially at morning” instead of “especially in the morning”. Dubawa also noted that the instruction after the listed seven habits also lacked basic spacing, improper use of capital and small letters and the use of shorthand (“u” in place of “You”).

    This was a major red flag as such grammatical errors are usually not associated with a reputable international organisation like the WHO. 

    Dubawa went ahead to conduct a keyword search on brain-damaging habits which led to a report by Medicover hospital claiming the WHO has listed 10 brain-damaging. 

    This search also led to another report by Pharmiweb listing 7 brain-damaging habits to avoid similar to the one in the viral image.

    Our keyword search also led to checks in 2020 by rappler.com, quint, and Factly.

    Dubawa also reached out to the WHO. The organisation said that the message is unrelated to the organisation.

    “The message has nothing to do with WHO and WHO does not endorse it,” WHO replied.

    Having established this is a recirculated claim, Dubawa also tried to look at what brain damage is and how these habits individually lead to that.

    Brain damage

    Brain damage is said to occur when a person’s brain is injured due to traumatic injury(a fall or an accident) or nontraumatic injury (such as a stroke).

    Brain damage is also seen as an injury that causes the destruction or deterioration of brain cells.

    Types of brain damage

    There are two types of brain damage; traumatic and non-traumatic/acquired brain damage.

    NOTE: All traumatic brain injuries are head injuries but head injuries are not necessarily brain injuries.

    -Traumatic Brain Injury: is caused by an external force like a blow to the head that causes the brain to move inside the skull or damages the skull. This in turn damages the brain.

    -Non-Traumatic/Acquired Brain Injury: occurs at the cellular level. It is most often associated with pressure on the brain from a tumour or result from neurological illness like a stroke.

    What causes brain damage?

    Causes of traumatic brain injury include: car accidents, blows to the head, sports injuries, falls or accidents, gunshot won’t and physical violence.

    Non-traumatic/acquired brain injury is caused by: poisoning or exposure to toxic substances, infection, strangulation, choking, or drowning, stroke, heart attacks, seizures, tumours, aneurysms, neurological illnesses, and abuse of illegal drugs.

    Ways to prevent brain injuries 

    According to WebMD, things to avoid to prevent brain injuries include; never shake a child, install window guards to keep young children from falling out of open windows, install shock-absorbing material on playgrounds, wear helmets during sports or cycling, wear a Q-collar while playing contact sports, wear seatbelts in cars, and drive carefully, avoid falls by using a step stool when reaching for high items, install handrails on stairways, don’t keep guns (if you do, keep them unloaded and locked away), don’t use illegal drugs, drink alcohol only in moderation, and never drink and drive.

    Claim 1: missing breakfast

    A study on Chinese workers revealed that skipping breakfast or eating a low-quality breakfast have a negative effect on cognitive function but this does not imply brain damage.

    Another study on children noted that although no statistically significant improvement was observed in task performance, significantly higher activation was recorded in the frontal, premotor, and primary visual cortex areas in the breakfast trial relative to the fasting condition.

    These studies show some effects of skipping breakfast but none of it speaks to brain damage making the claim false.

    Claim 2: sleeping late

    An article by Healthline noted that sleep deprivation or sleeping less than the required seven to nine hours drains mental ability and has long term effects.

    Also, another study reviewing different studies revealed that both short and long duration of sleep is significant predictors of death in prospective population studies.

    This claim is false because although fewer sleep hours have been noted to have some negative effect on a person’s health, it does not lead to brain damage. 

    Claim 3: high sugar consumption

    An article by Verywellmind notes sugar has drug-like effects in the reward centre of the brain and that sweet foods along with salty and fatty foods can produce addiction-like effects in the human brain which can lead to the loss of self-control, overeating, and subsequent weight gain.

    A 2013 study showed consumption of a high glycemic index (GI) compared with a low-GI test meal increased the activity in brain regions related to food intake, reward, and craving in the late postprandial period, which was coincident with lower blood glucose and greater hunger.

    Another study showed sweet foods can be more addictive than cocaine while a 2016 study showed researches that suggest high sugar consumption causes inflammation in the brain, leading to memory difficulties.

    All of these studies did not however point to brain damage whihc makes this claim misleading. 

    Claim 4: more sleeping specifically in the morning 

    Healthline article on sleep and the required amount of sleep does not show any issue with what time of day an individual sleeps more as long as they are not sleep-deprived.

    Claim 5: eating while watching the Television (TV) or computer 

    Healthsite.com advises against eating while watching TV because it distracts the brain and leads to eating more but this has nothing to do with brain damage.

    Claim 6: wearing a cap/scarf or socks while sleeping leads to brain damage is brain damaging

    The WHO spokesperson, Matt Taylor noted that there is no correlation between wearing socks or cap to sleep and brain damage.

    “Wearing a cap, scarf or socks while you sleep DOES NOT cause brain damage.”

    Excerpt of WHO’s response.

    Also, this article by Healthline notes some benefits of sleeping with socks which is necessary for cold regions.

    Claim 7: blocking or stopping urine is brain damaging

    This article by medical news today notes while it is necessary to hold urine sometimes when this becomes a habit, it can cause pain, lead to Urinary Tract Infection (UTI), bladder stretching, damage pelvic floor muscles, and kidney stones.

    Another article by MSD manuals also noted that urine blockage leads to kidney stone, infection, kidney damage, etc.

    Conclusion

     Brain-damaging habit claims in the infographic are false as our findings show this is a recirculated infographic, no data or research that links these habits directly to brain damage and the WHO has also denied it originated from them while noting the claims are not true. 

  • How Nigeria’s ex-lawmaker spread falsehood on COVID-19 vaccine, mislead followers

    To many Nigerians, Dino Melaye is a man of several talents – a vocal politician, activist in early years and author of a book. Outside politics, the former senator’s skills in singing and dancing, which he deploys in his political battles, arguably endear him to Nigerians the most.

    In one of his ‘hit songs’ popularly titled ‘ajekun iya’, Mr Melaye was seen dancing and singing after a senate committee acquitted him in an alleged case of certificate forgery. In several others, he would mock his political opponents, and sometimes praise God for victories.

    With this mix of talent and a political career constantly laced with controversies, the former lawmaker who represented his people at both the House of Representatives and the Senate, constantly engages his millions of followers on the social media, especially on Twitter.

    This engagement took a new life in 2020 when Mr Melaye started tweeting on the COVID-19 pandemic. Beginning from late 2020, he has released a series of tweets on vaccination against the novel coronavirus, mostly untrue.

    Using the ‘tweet content’ feature on Tweet Deck and a key word search of ‘COVID-19’ and ‘vaccine’, over a dozen tweets, containing purported factual information on vaccination were traced to Mr Melaye.

    An analysis of the reach and effect of some of his tweets shows that through millions of primary reach and thousands of reproduction, Mr Melaye’s conjectural tweets on vaccination have real life effects. With over two million Twitter followers, even at the time the virus was detected, Mr Melaye’s words were words of authority to many. Only a few Nigerian politicians have more followers.

    First, we take a look at the tweets and their metrics.

    Fact-checkers’ treasure trove

    On December 31, 2020, the World Health Organisation (WHO) approved the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for emergency use against the virus. Two weeks earlier, Mr Melaye had put out a video on Twitter to advise his followers on the expected vaccine. Way Back Machine only crawled on Mr Melaye’s Twitter page once in 2020. By then (December 16, 2020), he had about 2.55 million followers.

    Way Back Machine data

    The video titled ‘Say no to Covid 19 Vaccine’ lasted about one minute 50 seconds. He started by calling on Africans, particularly Nigerians, not to accept the use of any vaccine.

    He said further, “For 100 years now, we could not find a vaccine for cancer, for over 40 years we are yet to find a vaccine for HIV/AIDS, for over another 100 years research is still going on to find a vaccine for diabetes. How on earth is it possible that in one year, you find a vaccine for COVID-19?”

    “I am calling on African leaders not to allow Africans to be used as guinea pigs by developed nations for their satanic reasons.

    “We say no to the application of any vaccine in Africa. We call on the Minister of Health of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to immediately discontinue the interaction with those who want to give us vaccines.”

    Without any evidence, he claimed that ‘intelligence gathering’ had shown that some people who took the vaccine died in just three days.

    As of Friday June 4, Twitter data shows that the video had garnered 75 thousand views, over 3000 likes, and over 1, 800 retweets.

    Dino Melaye advises Africans against COVID-19 vaccine

    The tweet did not stop on Melaye’s page. It was retweeted close to over 2000 times across the platform. Twitter Advanced search returned the top five associates who interacted with the tweet. These associates, who retweeted Melaye’s tweet also got enmeshed in considerable interaction.

    With a total of over 100 thousand followers FS Yusuf (@_Yusuf, Dr. Ben Gbenro (@bengbenro), Bruce Batemen Esq (@demigodgeous), Nwankpa (@Nwankpa_A) and Daddy G.O (oboy_jay) all retweeted the video without captions.

    The video was more redistributed and viewed on YouTube. Top five pages who shared it on the platform amassed over 700,000 views. Other blogs and websites also shared both Mr Melaye’s narrative alongside the video.

    Majority of comments on this tweet were dismissive; in fact some fact-checks were published to debunk it but this came expectedly late and a good number of his followers took the message in. While some vowed never to take the vaccine, some others urged people to take the words of the politician seriously.

    Melaye’s tweet widely reproduced on Youtube

    “It’s amazing how quickly people on this TL dismiss this very important message. It rather needs to be amplified,” a user replied.

    For some who came across the tweet but decided not to interact, it’s never vaccination. How this played out will be examined later in this piece but let’s first take a look at some other bogus claims on the ‘inefficiency’ of the COVID-19 vaccine by Mr Melaye.

    Early 2021, an image of Remdesivir, a drug considered for the treatment of hepatitis and Ebola virus, surfaced on social media. On the pack, it was indicated that the drug was for use in 47 African countries and not for sale in the US, Canada, or EU.

    Mr Melaye picked it up and shared with the caption “what is the meaning of this biko?” Despite fact-checking efforts, many of his followers who had assumed the drug to be a vaccine replied to his insinuation in the affirmative. At least over 1, 000 reactions were tracked across several platforms.

    Melaye’s tweet on Remdesivir

    “My God, they (they) want to kill us since covid-19 could not do it,” one replied. Another wrote, “Who else observed Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya were exempted? Sudan was the only country amongst the North African countries that was included. Maybe the black skinned nation is their major target.”

    Close observation of replies on the tweet shows that over half of the 538 commenters (as of June 6) believe the insinuation. The tweet further reinforced an earlier conspiracy theory of African countries being targeted and marked for a wipe out. But Mr Melaye was not done.

    On January 21, he tweeted a video where he gave an over 2-minute warning to the federal government on planned vaccination, stating that vaccines are developed to suit country-type COVID-19 variants.

    He then went ahead two months later to disparage the AstraZeneca vaccine received by the federal government. In an interview with Roots TV, with thousands of views on other pages, Mr Melaye claimed that AstraZeneca is the least potent of vaccines. This time, he appeared to have reneged on his total intolerance for vaccines.

    Melaye’s tweet on AstraZeneca

    “I’m not saying Nigerians should not take COVID-19 vaccine, but what I am saying, in essence, is that —-there are four notable vaccines approved by WHO- AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot COVID-19 vaccine, Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine, and the one by Moderna. The least most potent of the four is AstraZeneca and the one with greater side effects.”

    He later shared an image on Twitter comparing these vaccines with similar disparaging captions. His claims, mostly inaccurate, were fact-checked here.

    Melaye’s claims reached many people

    Again, majority of the commenters agreed but what happened offline?

    Fuel for confirmation bias

    In a popular Redeemed Church in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, it was time for another Sunday sermon in January 2021. The lead pastor whose name is excluded from this story for privacy reasons, had decided to teach on end time.

    “The pastor told us he was not going to discourage you but he won’t advise you to take it. He said he won’t take the vaccine. For me he was just saying don’t take it,” Milon, a member of the church recounts.

    That time, the vaccine was yet to arrive in the country but it was expected to come soon through the COVAX facility. On March 2, four million doses of the vaccine arrived in Nigeria and weeks later, administration of the vaccine commenced in Nigeria.

    Against the popular mindset of church members and authority, a civil servant member of the church took the vaccine early in April and died one week after.

    “Most people believed it was the vaccine that killed her. Dino Melaye’s comments were used as a point of reference whenever my church members talked about the vaccine.

    “After her death, you’ll hear people saying we were told not to take it and she (the deceased) acted otherwise. The death really reinforced his comments. I don’t think up to one per cent of members have taken the vaccine” Milon said.

     “Especially, the youth in my church, they believe Dino Melaye was formerly in the APC (ruling party) before, so if he’s saying this there must be an iota of truth. My sister is not taking this and I know it’s due to these tweets. She follows him and loves him so much,” Milon said.

    Milon took his first jab in March and is due for the second soon but he dares not inform his family or any of his church members.

    While vaccination is understood to be individuals’ decision, the influence of public figures like Dino Melaye cannot be overlooked. This was confirmed in interaction and interviews with some youth members of the church.

    “Many prominent people in the country such as Dino Melaye, Pastor Chris (being) against this vaccine is enough reason to convince someone not to (take the vaccine.),” a female member of the church said, adding that “the way the country is, it’s actually hard for someone to trust government officials, you feel like how sure am I that something is not behind this thing.”

    Mr Melaye did not respond to a request for an interview sent to him via messaging app as his known lines were switched off.

    Back to the church, five other youth members who spoke on record would not take vaccines. Their faith leaders have warned against it and their political leaders are not ready to be vaccinated, why should they?

    This publication was produced as part of IWPR’s Africa Resilience Network (ARN) programme, administered in partnership with the Centre for Information Resilience(CIR), the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) and Africa Uncensored.

  • Facebook, WHO launches new campaign against COVID-19 misinformation

    Facebook in partnership with the World Health Organisation (WHO) is set to launch a new campaign against misinformation across Africa.

    This was contained in a press release on Monday, March 5, 2021, by APO group on behalf of Facebook.

    This campaign titled “Together Against Covid-19 Misinformation” will be rolled out in English and French, and will cut across 10 African countries.

    These countries are; South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Nigeria, Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire and DRC.

    “Today, across a number of African countries, Facebook is launching a new campaign in partnership with the WHO called ‘Together Against Covid-19 Misinformation’. The campaign will roll out to people in English and French across South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Nigeria, Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire and DRC” the press release reads.

    Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, Facebook has been working to connect people to accurate information and reduce misinformation on its platforms. 

    Last month Facebook announced the biggest worldwide campaign to promote authoritative information about Covid-19 vaccines

    This new campaign with the WHO is programmed to show up on Facebook through a series of graphics with tips on how to spot false news. 

    Aïda Ndiaye, the Public Policy Manager, was quoted in the press release as saying their duty is to ensure users get the right information about COVID-19 vaccines.

    “Ensuring users are getting authoritative information about Covid-19 vaccines is just some of the vital work we’re doing here at Facebook. During the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, we’ll continue working with industry experts and people on our platforms to ensure we’re aggressively tackling misinformation, and giving people additional resources to scrutinize content they see online, helping them decide what to read, trust and share” he said.

    Also, as part of the campaign, Facebook will launch a dedicated website in English and French, which will include information on how it is tackling misinformation on its platforms. 

    This, Facebook said, will give people more transparency around their Remove, Reduce and Inform strategy, by outlining its community standards, and sharing the steps it is taking to combat false news around global events such as Covid-19, elections and climate change.

  • After denigrating COVID-19 Vaccine, Fani-Kayode takes AstraZeneca jab

    A former minister of aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, has received his first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

    The former minister who has been vocal against COVID-19 vaccines shared a picture of himself taking the vaccine on Twitter on Wednesday. 

    He said the COVID-19 vaccine being administered in Nigeria is not Bill Gates’ vaccine and that there is a huge difference between the vaccine in Nigeria and the exploratory vaccines that the World Health Organisation (WHO) wanted to test on Africans. According to him, it was this exploratory vaccine that he spoke against and resisted last year.

    “The Covid vaccines we are taking in Nigeria are not Bill Gates’ vaccines and neither are we being used as Guinea pigs. These ones are tried & tested, have already been approved & have been administered successfully throughout the world. This is the Oxford Azrazeneca brand” he said in his Twitter post.

    Screenshot of Fani-Kayode’s Twitter posts.

    Before now, on April 30, 2020,  Mr Fani-Kayode in a Twitter post warned against the danger of the vaccine that would be proposed as COVID-19 cure, noting “it will lead to the death of many.”

    Screenshot of Twitter post from April 30, 2020

    In another Twitter thread on May 1, 2020, Fani Kayode said COVID-19 vaccines are part of Bill and Melinda Gate’s plan to kill millions. He added that only a fool will believe that a man who believes in reducing the world’s population will produce a vaccine that will save the world.

    Screenshot of Fani-Kayode’s Twitter Thread from May 1, 2020.

    Looking at his previous tweets, Mr Fani-Kayode was not specific which vaccine he meant but claimed any move to developCOVID-19 vaccines, in general, was part of a plot by Bill and Melinda Gates to kill many.

    Bill Gate has been one name that has suffered a lot of damage when it comes to fake news around the COVID-19 vaccine. From the claim that Bill Gate was offering $10million to house of representatives, to the claim he said at least 3 billion people need to die, to the claim that Bill gate is the cause of the pandemic etc.

    However, all COVID-19 vaccine efforts since early 2020, is a collaborative effort by the multinational pharmaceutical industry and between governments.

    As of February 18, 2021, at least seven different vaccines across three platforms have been rolled out in countries and more than 200 additional vaccine candidates are in development, of which more than 60 are in clinical development.

    Is there a vaccine owned by Bill Gate?

    There is no vaccine owned by BIll Gate. According to data published in the Lancet journal, The Bill and Melinda Gate Foundation has only made commitments and funded the production of some vaccines like the novavax, inovio, Dynavax SK Biosciences, Biological E etc.

    Screenshot of Health Policy data on leading vaccines and their funders

    Is there a WHO exploratory vaccine?

    The WHO has no vaccine it is pushing for any country. This organisation is tasked with monitoring and reviewing vaccines as they are produced for safety and efficiency before recommending any for use. 

    The Astrazeneca in Nigeria which Mr Fani-Kayode has now received was donated by COVAX which is a WHO initiative.

    The aim of the WHO and this initiative is to end the acute phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, by speeding up the development of safe and effective vaccines against COVID-19, supporting the building of manufacturing capabilities, and working with governments and manufacturers to ensure fair and equitable allocation of the vaccines to all countries.

  • WHO Response Alliance launches Viral Fact to counter COVID-19 misinformation

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) Africa Infodemic Response Alliance (AIRA) officially launches its social media arm known as Viral Facts Africa. 

    Viral Facts Africa was launched at a workshop on health communications for leading African influencers from business, sports, the arts and the media hosted by the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the African Union, the Rockefeller Foundation, Access Challenge and WHO. 

    Amid the growing spread of COVID-19 and related misinformation in the African continent, the Africa Infodemic Response Alliance (AIRA) initiative was born to combat misinformation related to the pandemic.

    This alliance launched in December 2020 with 12 organisations, brings together the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, International Federation of the Red Cross and Red crescent (IFRC), UNICEF, UNESCO, UN Verified, UN Global Pulse, WHO and the fact checking organisations Africa Check, PesaCheck, Agence France Presse Fact Check, Dubawa and Meedan.

    Today, the Alliance has grown to include 14 organisations with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and Ghana Fact joining the fold.

    VIral Facts Africa is a WHO-hosted network that is part of the Africa Infodemic Response Alliance (AIRA), to coordinate actions and pool resources to combat misinformation and fill information gaps around the COVID-19 pandemic and other health emergencies in Africa.

    “False claims can spread faster than COVID-19 itself, often because they are simple, visual and tap into our emotions. Viral Facts Africa aims to debunk myths right where they spread, fast, and to help people sort life-saving facts from noise. Together, we can stop viral rumours by sharing viral facts,” Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, was quoted as saying in the press release.

    Viral Facts creates scientific fact-based information, fact-checks, debunks and misinformation literacy content that are highly visual, engaging, and shareable across social platforms.

    “COVID-19 is not over, and as vaccines are rolled out across Africa, mask wearing, hand hygiene and physical distancing are still key to saving lives. We need a whole-of-society push to keep these messages fresh in people’s minds and everyone has a role to play as viral health misinformation costs lives,” said Dr Moeti.

    To achieve this, Viral fact works with communities to co-design and disseminate it’s contents on different social media platforms.

    Follow Viral Facts Africa on Facebook @http://facebook.com/viralfacts, on Twitter @http://twitter.com/viralfacts, and on Instagram @http://instagram.com/viralfactsafro.

  • Nipah virus: How true is claim there is a new virus outbreak in China?

    Claim: A Twitter post claims there is a new virus from China called the Nipah virus with 75% fatality.

    Although it is true there is a nipah virus with a fatality rate between 40% to 75%, it’s not a new virus and it did not originate from China.

    Full Text

    A Twitter post by World Publicist (@isimaOdeh) claims there is a new virus outbreak in China called the Nipah virus. The Twitter user also claims that the virus has a fatality rate of 75%.

    Screenshot of the Twitter post by the World publicist.

    Verification

    Dubawa conducted a keyword search on Twitter and Google. Twitter’s keyword search led to other posts by Twitter users and news blogs announcing the Nipah virus as a new virus from China.

    A Twitter post by Instablog9ja (@instablog9ja) added that the virus is rare and is spread by fruit bats.

    Screenshot of Instablog9ja’s Twitter post.

    Another Twitter post by Vixen (@pizzarhea) notes this virus could be the next pandemic.

    Screenshot of the Twitter post by Vixen.

    The google keyword search also led to reports on the virus. One report by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) notes that this is another virus that worries Asia.

    Screenshot of BBC’s report.

    What is Nipah virus?

    According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) Nipah virus (NiV) is a zoonotic virus that was first recognized in 1999 during an outbreak among pig farmers in Malaysia and in Bangladesh in 2001 with nearly annual outbreaks since then. The disease has also been identified periodically in eastern India.

    It is worthy of note that although Nipah virus has caused only a few known outbreaks in Asia, other regions may be at risk for infection, as evidence of the virus has been found in the known natural reservoir (Pteropus bat species) and several other bat species in a number of countries, including Cambodia, Ghana, Indonesia, Madagascar, the Philippines, and Thailand.

    Nipah Virus incubation period (interval from infection to the onset of symptoms) is believed to range from 4 to 14 days. However, an incubation period as long as 45 days have been reported.

    What is its mode of transmission?

    The Nipah Virus is transmitted from animals to humans, through contaminated food or directly between people. In infected people, it causes a range of illnesses from asymptomatic (subclinical) infection to acute respiratory illness and fatal encephalitis. Fruit bats of the family Pteropodidae (particularly species belonging to the Pteropus genus) are the natural hosts for Nipah virus.

    The virus can also cause severe disease in animals such as pigs, resulting in significant economic losses for farmers.  

    What are the signs and symptoms?

    Human infections range from asymptomatic infection to acute respiratory infection (mild, severe), and fatal encephalitis. Infected people initially develop symptoms including fever, headaches, myalgia (muscle pain), vomiting and sore throat. This can be followed by dizziness, drowsiness, altered consciousness, and neurological signs that indicate acute encephalitis. 

    Some people can also experience atypical pneumonia and severe respiratory problems, including acute respiratory distress. Encephalitis and seizures occur in severe cases, progressing to coma within 24 to 48 hours. Most people who survive acute encephalitis make a full recovery, but long term neurologic conditions have been reported in survivors.  

    Approximately 20% of patients are left with residual neurological consequences such as seizure disorder and personality changes. A small number of people who recover subsequently relapse or develop delayed onset encephalitis.

    The case fatality rate is estimated at 40% to 75% which can vary by outbreak depending on local capabilities for epidemiological surveillance and clinical management.

    How is the virus diagnosed?

    Because initial signs and symptoms of Nipah virus infection are nonspecific, the diagnosis is often not suspected at the time of presentation.  This can hinder accurate diagnosis and creates challenges in outbreak detection, effective and timely infection control measures, and outbreak response activities. 

    In addition, the quality, quantity, type, timing of clinical sample collection and the time needed to transfer samples to the laboratory can affect the accuracy of laboratory results.

    Nipah virus infection can be diagnosed with clinical history during the acute and convalescent phase of the disease. The main tests used are real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) from bodily fluids and antibody detection via enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Other tests used include polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay and virus isolation by cell culture.

    How is the virus Treated or prevented?

    There are currently no drugs or vaccines specific for Nipah virus infection although the WHO has identified Nipah as a priority disease for the WHO Research and Development Blueprint.  For now, intensive supportive care is recommended to treat severe respiratory and neurologic complications.

    Screenshot of WHO’s information page on the virus.

    According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in areas where there is an outbreak, there are preventive practices like regular handwashing with soap and water,  avoid contact with sick bats or pigs, avoid areas where bats are known to roost, avoid consumption of raw date palm sap, avoid consumption of fruits that may be contaminated by bats, and avoid contact with the blood or body fluids of any person known to be infected with NiV.

    Conclusion

    While it is true the nipah virus exists and has a fatality rate of between 40% to 75%, it is not a new virus and it did not originate from China. The WHO noted the virus was first reported in  1999 in Malaysia.

  • WHO did not approve COVID-19 herbal remedy with black pepper powder, ginger juice, others as ingredients

    Claim: a viral message making rounds on WhatsApp claims that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has approved a COVID-19 herbal remedy discovered by a certain Indian student.

    The claim that WHO has approved a COVID-19 herbal remedy with black pepper powder, ginger juice, and honey as ingredients is false and misleading. The claim is refuted by WHO and experts have confirmed the ingredients as insufficient and impotent to be termed a cure for COVID-19.

    Full text 

    The  Novel COVID-19 virus has forged a new spectrum in society. A new normal that has overhauled what used to be normal, to now be totally abnormal. Yet amidst this avalanche of unusual scenery is also an influx of diverse claims regarding cures, and remedies for COVID-19. These claims are most often predominant on social media, suggesting strategies and diagnosis for the virus.  

    Evenmore, the fear and anxiety COVID-19 instills, seem to make people susceptible to such information and enthusiastic in sharing  such information to their loved ones, online community groups and colleagues, etc. Though some of these heralded messages hold some shreds of truth, most of them turn out to be misleading. 

    In this instance, a viral WhatsApp message claims that the World Health Organization (WHO) has approved a COVID-19 herbal remedy that was discovered by Ramu, a certain Indian  student from the Pondicherry University. The claim posits that the herbal remedy is the first of its kind to be approved by the WHO with 100% efficacy confirmed. It further beckoned on users to distribute the information to “friends and family”.

    The message read:

    COVID -19 HERBAL SOLUTION JUST IN.

    Finally, an INDIAN student from PONDICHERRY University, named RAMU, found a home remedy for Covid-19 which is for the first time accepted by the World health organization( WHO.)

      – He proved that by adding 1 tablespoon of black pepper powder to 2 tablespoons of honey and ginger juice for 5 consecutive days, it would remove the effects of the covid-19  And finally disappear 100%

      – The whole world is beginning to accept this remedy.  Finally good news in 2021 !!

    PLEASE DISTRIBUTE THIS INFORMATION TO ALL OF YOUR FAMILY MEMBERS AND FRIENDS.

    Efficacy is 100% confirmed.”

    The message format on WhatsApp

    In recent times, DUBAWA has debunked multiple claims and myths about the COVID-19 cure. In one instance, a post on Facebook announced that the National Agency For Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has approved the PaxHerbal-remedy as a treatment for COVID-19. Yet after some analysis was carried out, we discovered it was a hoax. Also, several such messages with claims about natural home remedies having the ability to cure COVID-19 have been making  rounds since the pandemic broke. However, as before, none of these have been proved to be effective in curing COVID-19.

    Significantly, the timely and sufficient scrutiny of such claims is vital in directing and guarding unsuspecting members of the public on the right practices to inculcate as regards the virus and the access to fact-based information that directly relates to their health and general well being. It is as regards this need that DUBAWA subjects the claim to scrutiny, to uncover its verity and determine its validity and reliability especially as it relates to the general public. 

    Verification

    A preliminary query conducted by DUBAWA showed  that  in April 2020, when claims about COVID-19 home remedy cures became rampant,   WHO clarified that ginger and honey may not have any effect in curing or treating the disease. At a press conference in Geneva, Dr. Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Program, said that while it could have soothing effects, or even provide reassurance during an illness, it should not be assumed to be effective in treating COVID-19. In his words, he stated that:

    “I think we have to be careful from what we would consider to be the traditional remedies that people use for making themselves feel better during the common cold or the flu or any of this. We’ve all had illnesses, and some of us like to take a drink with honey, some like to take ginger…But it’s a different thing to say that something is effective in treating the disease. At this moment there is no therapy that has been proven to be effective in the treatment of COVID-19.”

    In the same vein WHO has refuted the claim and renounced its purported cure.   The WHO communication officer, Ms. Charity Warigon confirmed that “This is fake news and WHO has not approved any of such home remedies as COVID-19 cure.” While, Dr Jean Baptiste NIKIEMA, Regional Adviser, Essential Medicines at WHO Africa Regional Office in Brazzaville, who replied to DUBAWA via a mail also explained that:

    “Until now there is no cure for COVID-19 that has been scientifically proven. It is important to note that large clinical trials are necessary to conclude on the efficacy of therapeutics against COVID-19. With a very limited number of participants in trials, the recovery can be attributed to any product used by the patients during the sickness. When the number of participants in clinical trials increases, the inefficiency of the product will become evident.  This already happened with Chloroquine, Hydroxychloroquine and Remdesivir last year. WHO kicked off last year, the Solidarity Clinical Trial for COVID-19 Treatments. Solidarity is an international clinical trial to help find an effective treatment for COVID-19, launched by the World Health Organization and partners. It is one of the largest international randomized trials for COVID-19 treatment for almost 12 000 patients in 500 hospital sites in over 30 countries.”

    Concerning the ingredients,  Dr. Suranjit Chatterjee, Senior Consultant, Internal Medicine at Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, in a video interview that regards black pepper powder, honey, and ginger juice as COVID-19 cures, explained that there was no medical basis or evidence for stating that either of these ingredients could cure COVID-19. He clarified that: 

    “They might soothe the symptoms, they might in some way be immune-boosters, but in no way do they treat the infection in itself. Once you’ve had the infection, they don’t treat it. They have no definite proven role in the treatment of coronavirus.”

    Dr. Chatterjee added that:

    “Earlier, in pandemics when there was not much medical management, solutions like these were like a solace to people. But at present, there is fairly good medical management which can improve outcomes, so trying to do these and not actually approaching healthcare facilities for the disease could be counter-productive”.

    Deductively, this viral message lacks credible reference and the sufficient fact to back its imposition. It’s not anywhere published by a reputable media and has only been in existence as a broadcast message.

    Conclusion

    While black pepper and honey have lots of value to human health and ginger is also prevalent in natural treatment to boost immunity, these ingredients are not a cure   for the novel coronavirus. Also, WHO has distanced itself from this claim, flagging it as a false claim. 

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