U.S. Surgeon General Issues Call to Counter 'Urgent Threat' of Vaccine Misinformation
Warning comes as the pace of COVID-19 vaccinations has slowed throughout the United States
FRIDAY, July 16, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, M.D., on Thursday called on tech companies, health care workers, journalists, and ordinary Americans to do more to fight vaccine misinformation.
In a 22-page advisory, Murthy wrote that false claims have prompted people to reject COVID-19 vaccines, masks, and social distancing, undermining efforts to end the coronavirus pandemic and presenting an "urgent threat" to public health, the Associated Press reported. The warning comes as the pace of COVID-19 vaccinations has slowed throughout the United States, in part because of vaccine resistance.
Murthy, who also served as surgeon general under President Barack Obama, noted that surgeon general advisories have typically focused on physical threats to health, such as tobacco. But misinformation about COVID-19, deemed an "infodemic" by the World Health Organization, can be equally deadly, he noted.
Given the role the internet plays in spreading health misinformation, Murthy said technology companies and social media platforms must make meaningful changes to reduce its spread, the AP reported. Too often, he noted, the platforms are built to encourage, not counter, the spread of misinformation.
Murthy also called on teachers to expand lessons on media literacy and critical thinking. Journalists should work to responsibly debunk health misinformation without inadvertently spreading it further, he added. And public health professionals should do a better job explaining why public health guidance can change as new information arises.