It has now been almost a year since the COVID-19 virus has spread around the world. Between lockdowns, social distancing rules and hygiene advice, the preventive measures put in place to fight this virus have been numerous, often subject to doubts and linked to false information.

At a time when the “infodemic” of misinformation has led many people to say they won’t take a COVID-19 vaccine, Blasting News has joined a group of leading corporations, media organizations and nonprofits to launch a health media literacy campaign featuring a free tool to help them avoid misinformation and make informed decisions about vaccinations.

The VaxFacts campaign will ensure families receive free access to educational resources and a tool that helps them avoid health hoaxes: the HealthGuard browser extension, created by NewsGuard.

HealthGuard provides credibility ratings for the thousands of websites that publish news and information about healthcare topics, flagging those spreading hoaxes about the COVID-19 vaccine and guiding families to sources that offer authoritative information.

Download here the free extension.

Learning by reading reliable sources becomes an essential weapon in order to fight not only the pandemic, but also the “infodemic”. As vaccinations are rolled out around the world, the end of the pandemic now seems possible, but for that to happen, people must embrace scientific research and not be afraid to get vaccinated.

However, according to a December study by the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly 30% of American adults still say they would definitely or probably not get a vaccine. According to a study by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, disinformation is one of the causes of vaccine reluctance, and warns: “online misinformation threatens herd immunity target and ‘people’s lives.’”

As Angelo Paura, Global head of content at Blasting News, describes: “We think that access to correct and verified information about health is a right of every citizen in a democracy.

It is for this reason that Blasting News joins with NewsGuard at the forefront of this campaign at such a critical time for our society.” “We are thrilled to be one of the global media partners of VaxFacts,” he adds. Blasting News is working on two projects to contrast the spread of fake news: Fake News Sicily, a project funded by the Region of Sicily, in which Blasting News together with the University of Palermo is developing an algorithm to detect fake news; EUNOMIA, a EU funded consortium that is working on a secure blockchain-based social media.

As big digital companies like Facebook and Twitter try to play their part by removing inaccurate and unfounded claims on the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, a report published at the end of October 2020 by NewsGuard shows that 34 Facebook pages in English, French, Italian and German with some 14.2 million users were promoting them. Thus, fake news continues to circulate and to be popular on social networks, endangering populations in the face of this virus. As Gordon Crovitz, co-CEO of NewsGuard puts it: “Countering COVID-19 vaccine misinformation is urgent now that the COVID-19 vaccine is being rolled out. There is a significant risk that fear of the vaccine based on misinformation will prevent the herd immunity from widespread use of the vaccines that can defeat the deadly virus,” he adds.

Together with Blasting News and several international media partners like Amobee, The Association for Healthcare Social Media, Britannica, Center for Healthcare Innovation, EveryLibrary, Fortune, Islamic Medical Association of North America, Law.com, Medscape, MSN, the National Association of Media Literacy Education (NAMLE), Newsweek, STAT News, TIME and WebMD, HealthGuard browser extension wishes to protect and help internet users in their source of information.

HealthGuard, which includes ratings for the top sources of healthcare information in the U.S., U.K., Germany, France and Italy, can be used on all major browsers (Chrome, Safari, Firefox, and Edge) and installs with the click of a button. Once installed, HealthGuard’s Red and Green rating icons display next to links on search engines, social media pages and other platforms, indicating whether or not a site is a trustworthy source of health information.

Users hover over the HealthGuard icon to see a summary of each site’s rating and can click through to see a more detailed analysis in a Nutrition Label for each site. Ratings are based on nine basic criteria of journalistic practice relating to credibility and transparency.To download HealthGuard and read NewsGuard’s other reports about COVID-19 misinformation, click here.

Thanks to sponsorship support from Microsoft, the Knight Foundation, the Mount Sinai Health System and Publicis Health Media, HealthGuard is now available free until June 30, 2021.

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