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The Dragon Says: Officialdom Must Beware of Using Social Media

Published on: 13 Jan, 2021
Updated on: 14 Jan, 2021

Social media is a multi-mixed blessing, a mind-blowing maze of misinformation, dubious sources, misleading speculation, sometimes wild, but masquerading as fact with tendrils of truth here and there. At worst, such misinformation can be dangerous and incite anti-social behaviour, even violence.

Allowing such untrustworthy channels to release official information affecting our welfare during this dreadful pandemic seems chancy at best and possibly even dangerous.

So several days ago, when hazy rumours and unconfirmed snippets of unsourced “facts” began to float in social media about G Live being planned as a mass-vaccination centre, the Dragon editorial team knew we had to have official confirmation before publication.

This proved frustrating. Even before the rumours emerged, we had been told G Live was to be a vaccination centre but negotiations over the rental were ongoing, delicate and could be compromised if news got out.

This left us with a dilemma. We always want to report reliable news as quickly as we can but if we break trust with official sources we can be denied useful information in future.

We then learned volunteers were being openly recruited for G Live. Unsurprisingly, some local politicians started to mention it on social media.

So on Monday (January 11) when no official announcement had been received, and we heard the opening might be imminent, we sent a list of questions to the organisers, Surrey Heartland’s Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG):

  1. Has G Live now been confirmed as a vaccination centre?
  2. What will its role be?
  3. How will its role fit with services at GP surgeries and the RSCH? Are these to be used too?
  4. Will residents in Guildford Borough be sent to other vaccination centres? Will patients be directed to the closest centre or the centre with available capacity?
  5. What will happen to housebound patients or those without access to cars?
  6. What will the role of Superdrug be within the programme?
  7. What is being done to prevent the vaccine being sold on the black market?
  8. Is it expected that everyone over 70 will be vaccinated in Guildford and Surrey to meet the government’s target?

The official facts finally came from GBC, probably equally frustrated about the lack of any other announcement, in form of a press release, half a day after the mass-vaccination centre opened. It was hardly news for some of us by then.

Only later that afternoon did a CCG spokesperson reply to our questions.

“We are continuing to roll out our Covid-19 vaccination programme and we are pleased to confirm that G Live in central Guildford is opening as a local vaccination service today.

“People in the priority groups will be contacted to come in for a vaccination. It’s really important people do not attend if they don’t have an appointment as we won’t be able to see them.

“The G Live site will complement the other vaccination hubs already in operation across the Surrey Heartlands area. This additional location will enable local GP networks to vaccinate more people, at scale, by using a larger venue.

“As part of the wider vaccination programme, we have plans to vaccinate everyone in the priority groups as outlined by national guidance, including those who are housebound.

“We are working as quickly as possible to roll out the programme and people will be contacted when the vaccine is available to them; this will include anyone who is housebound.

“In the coming weeks, some local pharmacies will also be added to the venues where people, if contacted, can receive the vaccine.

“Our frontline health and care staff continue to work tirelessly to vaccinate people within the priority groups and as new vaccination sites come on board we will be able to increase our capacity and provide vaccinations to even more people living in the local area.

“We are asking people to help the local NHS:

  • Please don’t contact your GP practices, the wider NHS or any of the community venues that hosting clinics to seek a vaccine; we will contact you;
  • When we do contact you, please attend your booked appointments (unless you are unwell); and
  • Please continue to follow all the rules to control the virus and save lives.”

Openness and transparency? Why the mystery? The Dragon is still awaiting answers to some of our questions.

Is this an instinct for secrecy or a lack of urgency, who knows? But the need for clear and prompt communication of accurate information is greater now than it has ever been, in our lifetimes. Let us hope lessons have been learned.

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test 2 Responses to The Dragon Says: Officialdom Must Beware of Using Social Media

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    January 13, 2021 at 7:30 pm

    I support the reporting of The Dragon. But one has to temper frustration over communications. Is there the resource available to answer the Dragon’s excellent questions? We are in difficult times.

    Should the manager organising the delivery of the vaccine stop and answer or the manager organising the volunteers?

    As we sit, waiting at home for the call we know will come (expected in late march for me), should we be demanding immediate information which is of no real relevance, or let them get organised?

  2. Colin Haslett Reply

    January 14, 2021 at 10:06 am

    Well done, at least one reliable source of correct information.

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