Doctors Warn About The Spread Of Vaccine Misinformation Online

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Doctors Warn About The Spread Of Vaccine Misinformation Online
False statements include the vaccine causes infertility, the government exaggerates the number of COVID deaths, and the vaccine contains a microchip.
SHOW TRANSCRIPT

For years, the biggest correction Dr. Kenneth Remy made to his patients at UH Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio was informing them the flu vaccine does not cause the flu.

Nowadays, he says there's a daily battle — informing and correcting patients about something they heard or read online about COVID-19.

"This pandemic has spawned an infodemic, and that info is not always correct," Remy said. 

After caring for more than 2,000 COVID patients, Remy says he's heard it all.

And on more than one occasion every day, he sees the moments where a patient learns they were wrong.

"They believe that their vaccination didn't work or that masks didn't work, or that they couldn't become this ill because everybody was recovering and seeing now their realization that the myths that they were believing certainly were myths. I think that's the sadness," Remy said.

A sadness that still hovers over hospitals and their staff across the country.

Ashley Kirzinger serves as the director of survey methodology at the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit and non partisan organization which focuses on national health issues.

"I think what we know is that misinformation around health care topics isn't anything new," she said. "But the environment around the COVID-19 pandemic has really kind of made it much more widespread than I think anyone initially thought."

A recent report by KFF shows three out of every four American either believe or aren't sure about at least one of eight popular false statements surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. Statements such as the vaccine causes infertility, the government is exaggerating the number of COVID-19 deaths, or that the vaccine contains a microchip.

"These pieces of information or misinformation and disinformation that are questioning the safety and the efficacy of the vaccines are really striking and could be leading to why some people are more vaccine hesitant or skeptical," Kirzinger said.

Nationwide, more than 30% of those eligible remain unvaccinated.

"Because everything around the vaccine has become really partisan, people don't feel comfortable talking about it with their friends and family members," Kirzinger continued. "And maybe a way that they should feel comfortable talking about it because one of the great ways we learn is from our friends and family members."

Keeping an open line of communication — whether that's answering texts from patients, or questions from friends or neighbors — that's how Remy says he plans to keep fighting as this infodemic and pandemic continue to linger.

"There is a light at the end of this tunnel," he said. "I was hopeful that we would have been there last year, but we're not. So let's get there together. But I can't get there not only with the mutation of the virus, but the mutation of the information. And so we've got to make sure we have a consistent, accurate and up to date messaging system across our profession."