Since the pandemic broke out, Dutch doctor Robin Peeters visited the markets of Rotterdam, along with his colleagues in his profession, in his white coat, informing people about the coronavirus vaccine. The only thing they did was answer the questions that people put to them. They talked to them and, after a couple of questions and with their fears resolved, they decided to get vaccinated right there.
Peeters, who works at the Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam, realized that there was a lot of misinformation on social media and few reliable sources to which to transfer doubts.
People still trusted doctors to fight misinformation, but they needed to be able to reach a wider audience and they still didn’t know how. Until he found the solution: create a telephone line exclusively for questions related to the Covid vaccine. And so it was born Doubt phone, which in Spanish translates as ‘vaccine question telephone number’.
“It is clear that there was a need on the part of society, because from minute one the phone has not stopped ringing,” Peeters tells Euronews. It began on November 23 in the city of Rotterdam and in just two weeks it was extended to the university centers of Amsterdam, Utrecht and Maastricht, among other cities. A month after its launch, it received a national number and a tsunami of questions from all parts of the country.
They receive an average of a thousand calls a day from eight thirty in the morning when the service begins. The volunteers, who are mostly medical students, are overwhelmed. To resolve the doubts of the callers, they have a database with medical information, where they record all the questions that come to them and write down the answer to the most frequent questions.
In addition, for more specific information, they can consult the network of experts of the university medical center, from gynecologists to allergists.
“Our goal is not to convince people to get the vaccine, but simply to inform them. The decision to get the vaccine or not is up to each one. We are not there to pressure them, we just want to inform them about the vaccines and the latest knowledge. doctors, “says Peeters. “The only thing we want is to fight against the misinformation that circulates on the internet,” he adds.
“The anti-vaccines do not call”
Peeters says that the majority of the calls are from people who are concerned about getting vaccinated, have many questions, and need to speak to a professional in order to make a decision. “Most people have genuine questions that should be taken seriously. I don’t have concrete figures, but almost everyone who calls us has serious questions that need to be resolved,” he says.
Doubts about how the vaccine will affect your migraine, if it is safe to get vaccinated when you are already taking medications for diabetes and kidney failure, how it will affect your pregnancy, allergies, side effects … They generally expose your own personal situation and medical condition.
The most common questions, according to Peeters, are about pregnancy and fertility, we also tend to receive many doubts about the possibility of having an allergic reaction to the vaccine. “They just want to know if it is safe to get the vaccine in their situation and they need a doctor to give them this information.”
“Contrary to what may be believed, the anti-vaccines do not call this telephone line. We have realized that there are many more people with medical doubts, who are reluctant to get the vaccine,” says the doctor. And if it is the case, and on the other end of the line they find an anti-vaccine, they try to cut the call as soon as possible, the students are trained only to solve medical questions.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.