BELIEVABILITY OF DISSENTING CLAIMS ABOUT COVID-19 AMONG FEDERAL CIVIL SERVANTS IN SOUTHEAST NIGERIA

Joy Ukamaka Iloegbu, Ifeoma Vivian Dunu

Abstract


The outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic in late 2019 provoked a global response towards fighting the disease. However, this response was soon to confront with dissenting claims and conspiracy theories that posed a threat to efforts to persuade people to adopt recommended health measures. Against this backdrop, this research investigated believability of these dissenting claims about COVID-19 among federal civil servants in Southeast Nigeria. Anchored on the Reception Theory, the study adopted the survey method. The study area was the Southeast Nigeria, while the study population was federal civil servants in the zone numbering 2, 488. A sample of 345 was selected via a multi-stage approach. A structured questionnaire was used as the data collection instrument. Data analysis employed descriptive statistics (simple percentages) while the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) version 21 was used for data management. Findings showed that there was high exposure to dissenting claims about COVID-19 among federal civil servants in Southeast Nigeria and the Internet was the major source of this exposure. Majority did not perceive the several dissenting claims about COVID-19 as factual, even though a significant number tended to accept the claims that the virus never existed in Nigeria, that use of facemasks is risky, and that the vaccines are ineffectual and dangerous. It was further found that audience gave mixed response to COVID-19 controversies by taking cognizance of some of the dissenting claims while discountenancing others in deciding whether to comply with the recommended safety measures or not. The study concluded that dissenting claims about COVID-19 were strongly entrenched and indeed, to some extent, proved influential in shaping many people’s response to the pandemic. It was recommended that health communication efforts in relation to COVID-19 and any other future health emergencies should prioritize debunking conspiracy theories in order to help cushion the possible undermining effect of such theories on public persuasion.


Keywords


Believability, dissenting claims, COVID-19, civil servants,

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