Nigeria: No, the Covid-19 Vaccine Won’t Turn You Into A Vampire.

How one reporter calmly combatted disinformation spread by a religious leader.

Nigeria: No, the Covid-19 Vaccine Won’t Turn You Into A Vampire.

How one reporter calmly combatted disinformation spread by a religious leader.

IWPR trainee and contributor Bukola Ayeni.
IWPR trainee and contributor Bukola Ayeni.

I stumbled upon a weird and false claim that the Covid-19 vaccine has the capacity to turn its recipient into a vampire, and decided to dig deeper into the story.

The story gained popularity through Reverend Chris Okotie, the senior pastor of Household of God Church International Ministries, a Lagos megachurch.  He’s a former presidential candidate too. 

Okotie claimed that “one of the things that the vaccine will make you do is to become a vampire who needs to drink blood for sustenance”.

I see covering Covid-19 related disinformation as an opportunity to set people free from lies.

“But we, as Christians, don’t drink the blood, we drink wine, which is an emblem of the blood and that sustains us spiritually. But his communion will require you drinking blood consistently so that you are a vampire for your sustenance.”

Nigerians are very religious and we tend to believe the words of our religious leaders more than our families and other sources. So this is why I thought it was a relevant issue to debunk – and one that would have international interest - using tools that I learnt while undergoing training as part of IWPR’s Africa Resilience Network (ARN) project. 

I learnt how to carry out and source investigations online using freely available information, as well as how to interview people online and bypass some of the traditional channels. I use a lot of these new tools almost every day in my work.  I learnt how to use Google Earth, and advanced settings on Google Trends and Twitter. Hoaxy is a fantastic tool that tracks misinformation online. It’s helped my work in network analysis and investigations.

I got people talking about the story by sharing it on my social media platforms and via WhatsApp. People need to understand which claims are false. I bring out facts, although it’s hard to say things against priests and imams. I comment on Tweets and debunk myths, giving examples.

From what I saw online, I believe that very few people actually believe that taking the vaccine will turn you into a vampire. I think the government got it right on the vaccine publicity. Lots of people have taken the vaccine and nobody has turned into a zombie - or had a chip put in their skin. Testimony from vaccinated people worked. People got a little fever, and that’s all.

There are definitely some strange rumours and fake cures. Some people believe that if you take a lot of immune boosters you will not get Covid-19, and there are some other concoctions too.

Since high school I wanted to be a newscaster. My own media career has been online, and I work as a content creator, digital marketing executive and freelance writer, covering a wide range of topics that take my interest. 

I am passionate about my work against disinformation and misinformation, and ARN has definitely stretched me. Because of the help I got from international and Nigerian mentors, I could reach out for help whenever I wanted. I see covering Covid-19 related disinformation as an opportunity to set people free from lies.

This publication was produced as part of IWPR’s Africa Resilience Network (ARN) programme, administered in partnership with the Centre for Information Resilience (CIR), the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR), and Africa Uncensored.

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