In a letter to tech companies, health care workers, journalists and even ordinary Americans on Thursday, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy called for more effort to combat vaccine misinformation.
According to Murthy’s 22-page advisory, false claims have led people to reject coronavirus vaccines, masks and social distancing, undermining efforts to end the epidemic and creating an “urgent threat” to public health.
As vaccine protection slowed across the United States due to vaccine resistance, this warning has come at the right time.
The Surgeon General Calls For Reversing Misinformation About Vaccines
Murthy, who formerly served as surgeon general under President Barack Obama, says that advisories from surgeon generals tend to focus on physical threats to health. It is also equally deadly to spread misinformation about COVID-19, a disease classified by the World Health Organization as an “infodemic.”
In a press conference at the White House Thursday, Murthy told reporters misinformation poses a grave threat to our nation’s health. The Associated Press reported that that threat arises from misinformation spreading throughout the Internet. As a nation, he emphasized the need to fight misinformation. It’s vital to the lives of many people.
Technology companies and social media platforms have an important role to play in reducing the spread of health misinformation, according to Murthy. Murthy says platforms are often designed to encourage more misinformation instead of counteracting it. He suggests they step up to the plate to counter misinformation. If they don’t act aggressively soon, we will be at our wit’s end.
Despite the tide of misinformation, social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and others have defended their actions. The AP reported that Twitter has removed at least 40,000 items that violate its COVID-19 misinformation rules, in response to Murthy. The surgeon general and Twitter said they agreed in a statement. It is imperative for society to take action against health misinformation.
In addition, Murray called for teachers to incorporate media literacy and critical thinking into their classes. It is the responsibility of journalists to debunk health misinformation without inadvertently propagating it, he said. Public health professionals should explain better why public health guidelines can change over time as new information is gathered.
Moreover, Murthy’s call of urgency included everyday Americans: he urged them to verify questionable health information with authoritative sources, like the U.S. To exercise critical thinking and to learn about the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It’s better to hear what family members or friends believe or spread rather than confront them, he suggested, if they believe or spread misinformation.
According to Murthy’s advisory, misinformation hasn’t just contributed to physical harm – it has also caused division and conflicts among families, friends, and communities. In order to combat health misinformation, all members of society in both the public and private sectors must assume responsibility for their actions.
Vaccine mandates and passports are banned in many states
In preparation for school reopenings this fall, several states are requiring public school vaccination certificates or proof of vaccination for COVID-19.
As of CNN, at least seven states have already passed such laws, while 34 more have introduced bills that limit how vaccinations must be verified in order to prove citizenship. Public health officials are concerned with potential limitations posed by such laws on efforts to combat the spread of disease.
Every time there are laws prohibiting local health departments from trying to prevent diseases, even if they are restricting masks or mandating vaccinations; it would be an extra step for local health departments to take in the event of an outbreak or sharp increase in cases, the national organization said.
CNN reported that different laws take various approaches, yet schools cannot require and/or require proof of coronavirus vaccination, because they are not in compliance with the law. Governor Kay Ivey signed into law legislation that allows institutions of higher education to require students to prove vaccination status only for vaccines already mandated for admission as of January 1, 2021, and that doesn’t include Coronavirus vaccines.
In Arkansas, its new law states that students and residents do not have to get the coronavirus vaccine before attending school, according to CNN. Educational institutions cannot require proof of vaccination from students or residents in Florida.
As part of Indiana’s new law signed by Gov. Eric Holcomb in April, immunization passports were no longer from the state or local units. CNN reported that Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte issued a law in May that explicitly forbids people from withholding, refusing, or denying educational opportunities based on vaccination status. Similarly, Oklahoma passed a law in June prohibiting kids from attending school unless they are vaccinated against COVID-19. Utah has passed a law prohibiting governmental entities from requiring individuals to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. According to CNN, public schools are included in that.
Brent Ewig, a policy consultant for the Association of Immunization Managers, said public health officials are worried removing some vaccine requirements will affect public opinion of both Coronavirus vaccinations and school vaccine requirements. Another factor contributing to the slow adoption of vaccine mandates has been identified.