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Facebook flags as 'false' claims Gib deaths linked to vaccine

A Facebook post on Gibraltar deaths and vaccines, overlaid with a warning flagging it as 'False information'

Facebook has taken steps to counter disinformation on social media posts claiming there is a link between recent Covid-19 deaths in Gibraltar and the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

The claims, which first emerged last week, have been debunked by the Gibraltar Government but continue to circulate widely.

Now though, whenever someone posts on Facebook linking Gibraltar deaths with the vaccination programme, the social media giant overlays the post with a message describing it as ‘False information’ and linking to an article by respected global news agency Reuters setting out the facts.

The warning on the Gibraltar posts is part of Facebook’s efforts to tell users if they saw online posts containing misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic.

The move was implemented last year after the networking giant was criticised for not doing enough to contain the spread of rumours, half-truths and lies connected to the global public health crisis.

Reuters is just one of several leading international media organisations to have fact-checked the claims made about Gibraltar and dismissed them as baseless.

The coronavirus vaccination programme began on January 10 in Gibraltar.

By that date, there had been a total of 16 COVID-19 deaths recorded by the government.

By the 20th, this had increased to 53 and to 70 seven days later. As of today, the Covid-19 death toll in Gibraltar since the start of the pandemic stands at 79.

But there is no evidence whatsoever that these deaths are linked to the roll out of the vaccine.

The increase appears to be part of an upward trend that started before the first vaccine dose was administered.

On January 27, the government said in a statement that out of the more than 11,000 people who had been vaccinated, six had died for unrelated reasons.

“The Gibraltar Health Authority can confirm that there is no evidence at all of any causal link between these six deaths and the inoculation with the Pfizer vaccine”, the press release said.

“Statements to the contrary on social media are entirely untrue.”

According to the government, these six people appear to have caught Covid-19 before they were vaccinated.

“Despite testing for Covid-19 before vaccination, the infection had not been detected in them at the time they were vaccinated, but in the days immediately after,” it said.

All six were aged between 70 and 100, the government said.

At the time, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo was firm in his efforts to quash the claims.

“Do not believe the lies that anyone has died from the vaccine in Gibraltar,” he said.

“It is not true.”

“It is not true of any one of our elderly or our frontline workers.”

“It is not true of any frontline worker in the Campo de Gibraltar around us.”

“Please therefore be very careful with the information you disseminate and the information that you trust.”

“Trust only the information provided by official sources and our established media.”

“Do not trust what you hear in an audio message circulated virally on WhatsApp.”

“Lives depend on our continued trust in the medical science and our GHA.”

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