As a man from rural Alberta fights for his life in an Edmonton ICU, his wife, who was once against COVID-19 vaccines, is urging others to get vaccinated and protect themselves from misinformation online.

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As a man from rural Alberta fights for his life in an Edmonton ICU, his wife, who was once against COVID-19 vaccines, is urging others to get vaccinated and protect themselves from misinformation online.

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On Tuesday, Carla Palkun, 41, made a passionate plea on Facebook, where she is a member of several anti-vaccination groups, for unvaccinated Albertans to receive the vaccine after the virus struck her family last week. and left her husband, Chris Palkun, 40, in an intensive care bed more than 200 kilometers away.

Having a healthy family with no comorbidities, Carla said she was adamantly against COVID-19 vaccines, even as she drove Chris, who was on the same page, to an Edson hospital on Saturday for treatment for the disease. But along the way, her husband changed his mind, she added.

“He said, ‘I think when I get out, I’m going to go get an injection,’ and I said, ‘That’s fair enough … but I probably won’t get it yet,’” Carla. told Postmedia in a telephone interview on Thursday. “I didn’t know I was going to need all of this. As soon as he was intubated and taken to (Edmonton), my mind instantly changed: I’ll get the injection too. “

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Living “in the country” near Edson, where the couple’s lives had not been affected by the disease, Carla said that she and her husband began to believe that the virus was not real. She searched for information online and joined “anti-vax” Facebook groups that led her to accept some conspiratorial views.

“Everybody is saying that you shouldn’t bother because there is something in the vaccines that the government wants in your body so they can follow you around and control you,” he said.

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All of that changed when her husband was transferred to Gray Nuns Community Hospital in Edmonton on Sunday.

“It sounds so stupid now,” Carla added.

Timothy Caulfield, a professor at the University of Alberta and Canada research professor in health law and policy, cautions that the volume and nature of misinformation online makes it easy for almost anyone to get sucked into it. Actors in this field, he explained, are adept at appealing to people’s fears, concerns, values, and sometimes even their best judgment.

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“Those who promote disinformation are very good at making it look scientifically legitimate,” Caulfield said. “They refer to studies and use scientific language, and it can be very, very persuasive.”

However, he added, studies show that efforts to debunk misinformation online are proving effective, and initiatives like ScienceUpFirst, a collective of scientists, researchers, and healthcare experts, are working to counter misinformation about COVID- 19.

“It is specifically designed to address misinformation where it resides, and we know, research tells us, that this is largely, not quite, but largely a social media phenomenon,” he said. “So we are trying to create content that is relevant to all Canadians and works on all social media platforms.”

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But unlike Carla, most people don’t change their minds overnight on polarized topics like COVID-19 vaccines. Breaking down with those who have false beliefs about the vaccine is a long game, Caulfield said, and one that requires patience. But it doesn’t hurt to use disinformation tools against them either.

“One of the reasons misinformation spreads is that the proponents often rely on anecdotes,” Caulfield said. “They are based on testimonials, even if they are not true, but those testimonials can be very, very powerful, especially if they speak of someone’s values.”

And personal stories like Carla’s, he added, can help fight the noise.

As of Thursday, Chris is in critical condition, says Carla. She has been trying to keep in touch with him whenever possible using Edson’s video chat.

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Once he gets better, “if he gets better,” he added, he plans to share his story with the anti-vaccines that he used to follow. She says she doesn’t want others to learn her lesson the hard way, firsthand, and hopes to save them from pain by changing her mind.

“But it’s very difficult to try to change someone’s mind,” he said, “because I know how stubborn we were, and no one was going to tell us to get the vaccine.”

In the meantime, you are thinking about how to counter misinformation offline and closer to home.

After exposing her children to false information about the COVID-19 vaccine that causes infertility, Carla says she is concerned that there may beHe misinformed them and is thinking about how to correct the course.

“I feel really bad about that too,” he said. “You have to be very careful what you say to your children because they listen to everything you say.”

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Carla Palkun, far left, and husband Chris Palkun, far right, pose with their children for a photo in January 2020 in Kamloops, BC The Palkuns, who live in the country near Edson, were antivaxxers until they Chris contracted COVID-19 and ended.  in the intensive care unit at Gray Nuns Community Hospital in Edmonton.
Carla Palkun, far left, and husband Chris Palkun, far right, pose with their children for a photo in January 2020 in Kamloops, BC The Palkuns, who live in the country near Edson, were antivaxxers until they Chris contracted COVID-19 and ended. in the intensive care unit at Gray Nuns Community Hospital in Edmonton. Photo provided by

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Reference-edmontonjournal.com

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