First Person: A refuge from COVID misinformation

The COVID-19 inoculation is "just like any other vaccine" a UN Women staff member is telling the Syrian refugee women she cares for in camps in Jordan, as she tries to combat misinformation and false rumours, and avoid spikes in infection.

Hadeel Al-Zoubi is a Senior Camp Assistant working in two camps (Za’atari and Azraq) that accommodate Syrians who have fled their war-torn country. She told UN News how she has fought COVID-19 misinformation which helped her to overcome her own and others’ vaccine hesitancy.

“When the coronavirus first hit, everyone feared this unknown pandemic. We did not know what to expect, especially during the lockdown period when many people started working remotely. As a frontline worker in the refugee camps, I supported more than 300 vulnerable women on a weekly basis.

I could see the burden of confinement measures progressively increasing for them, particularly for the mothers. I was constantly worried that I might be the one to transmit the virus to the women or to get infected myself.

Serving as an example

It was only in 2021 that I felt a sense of relief, when the Government announced that vaccines would be available. However, at the beginning I was hesitant to take the vaccine. 

There was so much misinformation spreading at that time. I started to read more about it, to do some research. After one session organized by the office and WHO, where a doctor explained to us the key scientific facts, I decided to get the vaccine.

My mother did not want to take the vaccine as she heard it would have affected her DNA in some way. Misinformation had been circulating that suggested that it could change a person’s skin colour or negatively impact on the DNA of children born to mothers who had been vaccinated.

However, when my mother saw me getting vaccinated, she asked me to register her in the platform as well. I encouraged both my family and our beneficiaries to take the vaccine, serving as an example for them and providing support to complete the online registration.

After completing the two-way communication training, I feel I now have access to the right tools and sources to tackle fake news during this critical period. I share via our WhatsApp groups verified information on COVID-19 and the vaccine with Syrian refugee women enrolled in UN Women’s Oasis centres in refugee camps. They provide psychosocial support and livelihood opportunities to women for their economic empowerment, through a series of projects including tailoring and hairdressing training and other educational and child-care opportunities.

A safe virtual space

The women’s centres were important as they also provided a safe virtual space to share correct information from trusted sources about the pandemic. They complemented a Ministry of Health campaign which aims to spread awareness about COVID-19, and our own awareness-raising material.

The women I interact with responded positively and asked many questions about the various vaccines available, the possible side-effects, and what to expect after being vaccinated. I think they wanted to understand the facts and see how effective the vaccines are.

I usually tell the women I serve that the COVID-19 vaccine is like any other vaccine we take during our life. Vaccination is key to overcome the pandemic and we should be aware of fake news and disinformation spreading around us. While I’m less worried about the virus, I remain vigilant by respecting social distancing, wearing my mask, and sanitizing my hands”.


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