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WHO Teams With Facebook Against Social Media Vaccine Misinformation

FILE - The social media application, Facebook is displayed on Apple's App Store, July 30, 2019. Facebook is launching a long-promised tool that lets users block the social network from gathering information about them on outside websites and apps.

The World Health Organization has reached an agreement with Facebook to direct millions of users to WHO sites where they can get accurate information about vaccines.

WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib tells VOA that misinformation about vaccines is a global health threat that could reverse decades of progress made in tackling preventable illnesses.

"Consider for example, when WHO is doing a campaign on polio in Pakistan or yellow fever in Africa," she said. "You can see a lot of misinformation about the danger of vaccines. And, we do know that vaccines work. … Without vaccines people will die."

The WHO estimates more than 3 million people die every year from vaccine-preventable diseases. Separately, it estimates vaccines against measles, diphtheria, hepatitis, cholera and other diseases save at least 2 million lives annually.

Chaib says the WHO is turning to Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and other major online sites to stop false rumors and misinformation about vaccines permeating social media platforms.

"We hope to reach all generations with the right information through the digital platforms because this is the way people now get the information they need," she said. "They will not go directly to the WHO website or read a newspaper. They will go to social media and see what people are saying about vaccines or other things."

But the WHO says the online effort alone is not enough to reverse a globally trending anti-vaccine movement. It says governments and the health sector must take tangible steps to alleviate the concerns of parents.