U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy on Thursday called for a national effort to combat disinformation about COVID-19 and vaccines, targeting technology companies, health care workers, journalists and Americans. every day to do more to deal with a problem “that costs us our lives”.
In a Tip of 22 pages, his first as general surgeon to President Joe Biden, Murthy wrote that false claims have led people to refuse vaccines and public health advice on masks and social distances, undermining efforts to end the coronavirus pandemic and life-threatening.
The warning comes as the rhythm of COVID-19 vaccinations has slowed across the United States, in part because of opposition to vaccines fueled by unproven claims about immunization safety and despite the recent number of U.S. deaths. passing 600,000.
“Today we live in a world where disinformation poses an imminent and insidious threat to the health of our nation,” Murthy said at a press conference.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, misinformation led people to resist putting masks on high-risk parameters, leading them to refuse tried treatment and to choose not to be vaccinated,” he said.
“In short: health information has cost us our lives.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Thursday that the Biden administration has increased its track record of misinformation and “problematic reporting” of social media posts to Facebook.
“There are about 12 people who produce 65 percent of anti-vaccine disinformation on social media platforms,” Psaki said. “All of them have been active on Facebook, although some have even been banned on other platforms, including those that Facebook owns.”
Health disinformation was a global problem even before the internet and social media allowed dangerous claims to spread faster and easier than ever before. The problem of COVID-19 misinformation is so great that the World Health Organization has considered it an “infodemic”.
Given the role the Internet plays in spreading health disinformation, Murthy said technology companies and social media platforms need to make significant changes to their products and software to reduce the spread of disinformation while increasing access to it. authoritative sources based on the facts.
Teachers, he said, should extend education to media literacy and critical thinking. Journalists, he suggested, should work to responsibly uncover health disinformation without inadvertently disseminating it. And public health officials and doctors, he suggested, should do a better job answering questions and explaining why public health guidelines change at times based on new information.
As for everyday Americans, Murthy ordered them to verify questionable health information with trusted sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and to exercise critical thinking when exposed to claims. not verified. If you have loved ones or friends who believe or spread misinformation, he said, it’s better to engage in listening and asking questions rather than facing them.
While some groups that push health disinformation do it for profit, Murthy wrote that many Americans could spread false information without intending to cause harm.
“If you’re not sure, don’t share,” he said.
Recent polls show that the hesitation of vaccines falls far short of matches. A recent one investigation conducted by the Washington Post and ABC News found that 86 percent of people who identify as Democrats have received at least one vaccine, compared to 45 percent of Republicans.
Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican congresswoman representing Georgia and a strong supporter of former President Donald Trump, tweeted on Sunday a message urging people not to get the COVID-19 shot, saying it has “vaccine side effects. very life-changing. ” Greene has more than 400,000 followers on the social media platform.
In response, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican and survivor of polio, encouraged more Americans to take the plunge.
“We need to finish the job and part of that is just convincing the American people of the importance of doing this,” McConnell told reporters during a press conference Tuesday.
“Everyone who knows this subject says that, if you get the disease again, your chances are pretty good, you’re not going to die for it if you get vaccinated,” he said. “So I don’t know how many times we have to keep saying it, but for myself, I’m going to keep saying it over and over again.”