How social media is influencing vaccine reluctance

Rapper Nicki Minaj’s recent series of Twitter comments shed light on the ability of influencers to influence vaccine choice, especially in the black community.

It all started with a series of tweets. Rap sensation Nicki Minaj has caught the attention of political pundits, medical professionals and even the White House, after voicing her opinion on COVID-19 vaccines.

The rapper’s wave of tweets on September 13 told fans she needed to do more research before getting vaccinated, encouraged them to do the same, and suggested that in the meantime they stay safe wearing their masks. . But the most controversial tweet was an antidote for a friend of her cousin’s living in her home country of Trinidad and Tobago, who had become impotent and developed swollen testicles after being vaccinated.

“My cousin in Trinidad won’t get the vaccine because his friend got it and became helpless,” the hip-hop star tweeted. “His testicles became swollen. Her friend was a few weeks away from getting married, now the girl has called off the wedding. So just pray over it and make sure you’re comfortable with your decision, not intimidated. “

Some condemned Minaj for questioning the vaccine and lambasted her for spreading false information to her 22.7 million followers. Many ignored the rapper’s other tweets encouraging her followers to get the shots and even posting a poll asking them which vaccine they prefer. Unsurprisingly, the erectile dysfunction story took center stage as critics called Minaj for spreading false information.

“For you to use your platform to encourage our community not to protect themselves and to save their lives… As a fan, I’m so sad you did this,” exclaimed MSNBC’s Joy Reid of ‘ The ReidOut ‘on September 19 as she wiggled her finger across the screen.

Reid was not the only member of the media to challenge. Minaj’s tweets drew reactions from people like former ‘The View’ host Meghan McCain, who called the 38-year-old tweets “irresponsible.” Late night hosts Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert scoffed at Minaj’s posts. Others, like radio host Charlamagne tha God, have taken a softer approach, suggesting this is a good time to educate those who question the vaccine.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Anthony Fauci has since debunked Minaj’s tweet that the vaccine is linked to reproductive issues. Republic of Trinidad and Tobago Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh, MP, spoke and said there have been no reported cases linking the vaccine to swelling of the testes.

“Unfortunately, we wasted so much time yesterday dealing with this false claim,” Dr Deyalsingh said earlier this week. “As far as we know at this point, no such side effects or adverse events have been reported. And what was sad about that was that it wasted our time yesterday trying to track down because we take all of these claims seriously, whether on social media or mainstream media.

Minaj, real name Onika Maraj-Petty, is one of many black Americans hesitant to sign up for the shoot. According to a report by Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), only 42% of blacks are vaccinated against 52% of the white population. In December 2020, Kenrya Rankin of HealthCentral addressed the community’s distrust of medicine.

“Rooted racism in the United States medical system makes many black people reluctant to get vaccinated,” Rankin wrote. “This leaves doctors worried that the communities hardest hit by the coronavirus – and the chronic health problems it leaves in its wake – will not be immune. “

In truth, stories like the Tuskegee Syphilis Study of 1932, in which doctors deliberately failed to treat black men with the disease, argue for medical mistrust. As is the story of Henrietta is missing, the poor black woman whose cells were stolen by a doctor at Johns Hopkins Hospital in the 1950s. For those who claim that this is ancient history, this year alone, California has announced that it would pay millions to the surviving victims of forced sterilization programs which has greatly affected people of color.

So whether or not you agree with Minaj, the bottom line is that if you’re black in America, the vax concern is probably more real to you than it is to other bands. Some fans applauded Minaj on Twitter for admitting her hesitation about the vaccine and thanked her for asking questions. In response to a fan who suggested she speak at the United Nations General Assembly, Minaj said she was invited by the White House to continue the conversation. (The White House has confirmed that it offered the star a phone conversation with a doctor.)

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from Minaj’s tweets is the reminder that in the internet age, social media, for better or worse, is all-powerful in influencing public opinion. That’s why medical experts like Kristamarie Collman, MD, a certified double-board family doctor, have turned to Tik Tok and Instagram to spread accurate information on healthcare, COVID-19 and vaccines.

“I was coming across so much information and so many myths that were being spread online from big accounts and people who had a lot of influence but didn’t have the knowledge to talk about these issues,” says Dr. Collman. , who runs Prose Medical. in Orlando, Florida.

As a black woman, the doctor admits she even had questions about the vaccine. “I made sure to do my research and listen to people who had the expertise, training and experience to provide me with all the information I needed,” says Dr. Collman. “I weighed the pros and cons, the risks. compared to the benefits, and decided that getting the vaccine was better for me and my family.

Dr. Collman hopes that by laying out the facts and sharing her expertise as a doctor and her perspective as a woman of color, more people in the black community will be comfortable with the idea of ​​getting the vaccine. As for what Minaj is going to do? Only time, and Twitter, will tell.

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