The vaccine and social media responsibility

On Monday, December 14th, 2020, Canada started the journey towards the light at the end of the tunnel—the first COVID vaccines, created by Pfizer, were injected into Canadians’ arms.

Social media during the pandemic has played a significant role in informing people and continues to do so. As well, social media became a haven to escape from the craziness by doing viral challenges — from doodling, trick shots, baking, and dance-based challenges on platforms like Instagram and TikTok.

COVID became a catalyst for news agencies to broaden their social media presence. Access to reliable information is now a vital part of our daily routine.

Conversely, a lot of information circulating on the internet is engineered misinformation. Remember the conspiracy theory that 5G towers give people COVID? Then there was Donald Trump, the world’s most noteworthy driver of COVID misinformation, declaring the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine as being a “game-changer.” Then during a White House briefing (April 2020), Trump suggested an injection with a disinfectant, such as bleach, would fight the virus.

I won’t get into the number of “COVID miracle cures” floating around the internet.

There are two types of false information that thrive: misinformation—inadvertently drawing conclusions based on wrong or incomplete facts; and disinformation—deliberately spreading fabrications to promote an agenda.

Both are a serious threat to public health.

Social media platforms facilitate the spreading of information, which is their reason for existence and popularity. Unfortunately, this ease of communicating information has led to widespread disinformation, complicating public health response, creating confusion, and contributing to vaccine hesitancy.

At this critical stage, when we’re finally starting to turn the corner to head into a post-COVID world, ask yourself: What’s my social media responsibility now?

Your social media responsibility begins with separating disinformation from accurate information. How? By trusting your common sense. If the information in question doesn’t sound right or seems suspicious, don’t immediately trust it. More importantly, don’t forward it, share it (i.e., retweet, post on Facebook), or “Like” it—this will just spread the disinformation. Do some research!

I suggest getting your information from multiple sources so you can compare the information and make an informed decision. When reviewing a news source, ask yourself:

What’s the author’s knowledge about the subject?

Does the author, or media outlet, have an agenda?

Where did the author get their information?

When was the material written?

Has the material been reviewed for publication or simply posted with a disclaimer?

Suppose the news source doesn’t provide information about the author or isn’t clear where the author got the information. In that case, credibility and reliability are hard to evaluate—a red flag. Sources that clearly state these things are generally more reliable.

It goes without saying never trust, forward or repost, anything appearing on your Facebook wall or Twitter feed without first doing due diligence. Checking your sources of information is a large part of being social media responsible. You don’t want to unintentionally spread rumours, or fake news, that will potentially lead to vaccine hesitancy.

Social media companies are beginning to show a willingness to address disinformation on their respective platforms. However, those with an agenda to undermine trust in the vaccine will not be using outright lies. Instead, they will be leading campaigns designed to undermine the institutions, companies, and people managing the rollout. They’ll be posting vaccine injury stories and providing first-person videos detailing side effects that are difficult to fact check. When a radio station asks on Facebook, “Will you be getting the COVID vaccine?” the comments will be flooded with conspiracy theories.

There’s nothing you or I can do to prevent COVID disinformation from appearing on social media. By verifying your information sources, refraining from spreading rumours, along with washing your hands and wearing a mask while in public, you’ll be doing your part in helping to wrestle this pandemic into becoming a footnote in our history.

Nick Kossovan
Toronto

 

Appreciates home-delivered Legion meals

Every Friday during the past winter, the ladies of Royal Canadian Legion Branch 613 in Fonthill have provided free-of-charge, frozen meals to hundreds of seniors and veterans. As a grateful recipient, I would like to thank the dedicated team of volunteers that prepared and delivered those meals—an amazing total of 14,000 for the season. I hope those ladies enjoy a well-deserved break.

Bob McClellan
Fonthill

 

Easter an opportunity to remember the real Jesus

With COVID-19 still active, many people will be looking to restore some sense of “normality” by welcoming the Easter Bunny into their home. As for an eight-year-old, a year is a really, really long time, and that fact cannot be stressed enough. Easter is a fun holiday. Bunnies lay eggs, children hunt for eggs, and people dress up in fancy clothes. Depending on your beliefs, Easter can be a time of meaning, inspiration, and reflection. Jesus Christ’s resurrection is celebrated by Christians around the world. Secular traditions include meaningful family get-togethers. Easter is symbolic of rebirth. Warming temperatures bring back migrating birds, flowers are starting to pop up from the ground and trees are budding. Lawns greening and gardens showing the first signs of the bulbs planted last fall. The world is coming alive again after a long and cold winter. Many of the cultural historians find in the celebration of Easter a convergence of three traditions—Pagan, Hebrew and Christian. Whether we subscribe to a religion or not, major holidays, such as Easter, remind us of the turning world. Easter is too grand an occasion to be experienced adequately in a single day. Our ancestors in the faith realized this and over a period of time developed a season of preparation. We call that season Lent. For well over 1500 years, Christians have used this period of roughly seven weeks to prepare their souls for Easter Day. Easter is the holiday that celebrates and commemorates the central event of the Christian faith, the resurrection of Jesus Christ three days after his death. Jesus is the Son of God and heroically gave His life to die for our sins. We know Jesus was about 30 years old when he began his ministry (Luke 3:23), but the Bible tells us virtually nothing about what he looked like, except that he didn’t stand out in any particular way. When Jesus was arrested in the garden of Gethsemane, Judas Iscariot, who had received 30 pieces of silver from the chief priests to deliver Him to them, had to point Jesus out to the soldiers when He was standing among His disciples, presumably because they all appeared similar to one another. The cancel culture of the day were terrified and jealous of His ever increasing popularity with the people and made three charges against Jesus. First, that He was a revolutionary agitator, that Jesus forbade His hearers to give tribute to Caesar and the third charge was that Jesus had claimed to be a King. Pilate said to them: “You brought me this man as one who was misleading the people. When I examined him before you, I did not find this man guilty of anything you accused him of doing.”(Luke 23:14)

In Mark 15:12, Pilate asked the crowd again, “What then do you want me to do with the One you call the King of the Jews?” In 15:13, “And they shouted back, ‘Crucify Him!’ 15:14, “Why?” asked Pilate. “What evil has He done?” But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify Him!”

Christ was then crucified under the order of the Roman governor Pontius Pilate as the high priests accused Jesus of “blasphemy” because he claimed to be the son of God. (The word “excruciating” means “out of the cross,” or crucifixion.)

Robyn J. Whitaker is a senior lecturer in New Testament, Pilgrim Theological College, University of Divinity. She states that, “While there is no physical description of him in the Bible, there is also no doubt that the historical Jesus, the man who was executed by the Roman state in the first century CE, was a brown-skinned, Middle Eastern Jew. This is not controversial from a scholarly point of view, but somehow it is a forgotten detail for many of the millions of Christians who will gather to celebrate Easter this week.”

He was descended from the medium-brown-coloured Shem, via descendants who stayed in the Middle East and eventually gave rise to the Israelites, and thus the tribe of Judah. Israelites in those days tended to marry within their own ethnic group, and so the mid-brown colouring, neither very dark nor very light, would have been maintained throughout the generations until Jesus’ time. The only passage in the Bible that refers to Jesus’ physical appearance while He was on earth is Isaiah 53:2. The passage tells us that Jesus “had no stately form or majesty” and no “appearance that we should be attracted to Him.” In short, Jesus was not a handsome man. Why does the Bible not comment on Jesus’ colour? The answer is fairly simple —He came first to the Jews, and His message was hard enough for them without His looking too different from them. But as God, He already knew that most Jews would reject his message, which would include his final instruction to any Jewish converts, that they must go into all the world and preach the gospel to every tribe and nation. The gospel was therefore not any one ethnic group. It was “multiracial.” It was cross-ethnic, and the issue of Jesus’ skin colour has nothing to do with the content of the message concerning eternal life needed by people of all skin colours.

On the third day after He died, the day we now celebrate as Easter Sunday, His friends went to His grave tomb, and found that His body wasn’t there. They saw an angel at the tomb opening where the huge stone covering it was rolled away who told them, “Don’t be afraid! I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He has been raised from the dead just as He said it would happen.” Jesus appeared alive to more than 500 people, on 12 separate occasions after His resurrection. Jesus appeared to apostles when Thomas (“doubting” Thomas) was there and asked him to touch His wounds. That proof only could make St. Thomas believe Jesus’s resurrection.

Easter is the oldest Christian holiday and the most important day of the church year. The Jewish Passover under Moses commemorates Israel’s deliverance from about 300 years of bondage in Egypt. It was during this Passover in 30 AD Christ was crucified. It’s traditional to eat hot cross buns on Good Friday. The pastry cross on top of the buns symbolises the cross that Jesus was killed on.

This week, whatever you may be facing, remember that in three short days, the disciples and family of Christ went from hopelessness to hopeful—from devastation to celebration, from defeat to victory! Because of the cross and the tomb, you have a hope in Christ! You can also read Lee Strobel’s book “The Case For Easter” for an in depth look at the Easter story.

Napoleon expressed the following thoughts while he was exiled on the rock of St. Helena. There, the conqueror of civilized Europe had time to reflect on the measure of his accomplishments. He called Count Montholon to his side and asked him, “Can you tell me who Jesus Christ was?” The count declined to respond. Napoleon countered: “Well then, I will tell you. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne and I myself have founded great empires, but upon what did these creations of our genius depend? Upon force. Jesus alone founded His empire upon love, and to this very day millions will die for Him.”

Paul Bryant
The Pelham Bible Club

 

PELHAM AND COVID-19 | Mayor Marvin Junkin

The Amazing Race (COVID edition)

Stopping COVID-19 is now a race between the vaccine and the variants, so says Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam. Because of the highly contagious variants, Dr. Tam stated, “the threat of uncontrolled epidemic growth is significantly elevated.” The variants are not only more contagious but they are causing more serious symptoms, especially in the 20-39 age group. When members of this age group do require hospitalization the average hospital stay ranges from two-to-three weeks, putting a prolonged strain on the healthcare system.

As of last Thursday, 4.5 million vaccine doses have been administered nationally with more than 10 percent of Canada’s adults having now received one dose. Nearly 60 percent of seniors aged 80 and over have gotten one shot.

Currently Canada is scheduled to receive 6 million doses between now and April 18. This number is somewhat in jeopardy due to volatility in the global vaccine supply chain, and export restrictions cropping up in places like Europe. So far these restrictions have not affected Canadian supply. With various parts of Europe under lockdown and many European countries experiencing surging numbers of cases, this situation could change for the worse very quickly.

In Ontario, a record 72,451 doses were administered this past Tuesday. While somewhat impressive at first glance, one vaccine expert has pointed out that if all residents of the province are to be fully vaccinated by September 1, the province must reach 175,000 doses per day, which this same official thought was a very attainable goal.

As of last Tuesday, 1,675,150 doses had been given, which is 9.3% of the province’s population.

In Niagara, as of March 25, over 60,000 doses had been given. Residents over 75 are the next priority group. This week Niagara Health is partnering with family doctors within the region to vaccinate people 75 years of age and older. All comments that I personally have received from people who have gotten vaccinated have been favourable, with residents being very impressed with the level of kindness they have received and the quickness of the event.

As of this Monday, outdoor fitness classes could resume with a maximum of ten people, and all limits have been lifted on outdoor weddings, funerals, and religious services, as long as physical distancing can be maintained.

Although we can all see the light at the end of the tunnel it is still imperative that individually we continue to be vigilant in our hand washing, social distancing, and mask wearing when in enclosed public spaces. And, oh yah, phone a friend that you haven’t chatted with for a while—it will make you both feel better!

Until next time…