THE IMPACT OF MISINFORMATION
Fear of contracting the virus and the rampant spread of misinformation have led many in northern Brazil to rely on the ‘COVID kit’—a drug cocktail promoted by Brazilian authorities as both a preventative measure and treatment. The medication includes hydroxychloroquine (an anti-malarial medication), ivermectin (an anti-parasitic), and some antibiotics.
As clinical studies have not shown any effectiveness of the kit in either preventing or treating COVID-19, those that take them have a false sensation of security, believing they are protected from the virus. This not only may lead to risk taking behaviour like ignoring social distancing, but when these patients fall ill with COVID-19, they tend to come late to health facilities, often already in severe or critical condition.
“Some people say they are taking higher doses than prescribed, and for a longer period, believing that this way they are protected against the new variants,” says Jamila Costa, an MSF nurse responding in northern Brazil. “There are parents who give them to their small children.
“Our duty is to keep working every single day so that preventive measures against the disease that actually work, like hand washing, using masks and social distancing, are understood and followed in the community.”
In locations where MSF works, the vast majority of patients in serious or critical condition were taking these medications when they fell ill. There are media reports of doctors being intimidated and threatened for refusing to prescribe such medications or speaking out about the mismanagement of the COVID-19 response in Brazil.