Surgeon General warns of COVID-19 misinformation

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy
Surgeon General Vivek Murthy

Exchanges Photos / Flickr cc

Today US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, MD, spoke at the White House about his newly issued surgeon general's advisory—the first of the Biden administration—about misinformation concerning COVID-19.

"During the pandemic, misinformation has led people not to wear masks in high-risk settings, turn down proven treatments, or get vaccinated," Murthy said. "This led to avoidable illnesses and death."

While health misinformation is not new, Murthy said the speed and scale with which misinformation is spreading, especially on social media, is alarming and a risk to American lives.

"If you're not sure, don't share," Murthy said, referring to Facebook and Instagram posts not verified by medical experts. "We expect more from our technology companies; we are asking them to operate with greater transparency and accountability. We're asking them to monitor misinformation more closely."

Murthy's advisory comes as a third of US adults are still not vaccinated against the virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID Data Tracker shows 388,295,385 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been delivered and 335,487,779 have been administered in the country, with 160,126,516 Americans fully vaccinated (67.8% of adults have received at least one dose).

Experts say 70% to 80% of Americans will need to be vaccinated before herd immunity can be reached.

APIC calls for correct vaccine information

In related news, today the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) released a statement on ensuring access to vaccine information.

"Vaccines and related outreach should not be politicized regardless of the type of vaccine. In the absence of credible vaccine information, citizens are forced to rely on less accurate means of obtaining information such as social media and the internet," the statement reads.

The APIC statement comes 1 day after the Tennessee Department of Health stopped vaccine outreach, for COVID-19 or other diseases, for minors due to pressure from conservative lawmakers.

According to the Tennessean, state officials are no longer able to offer vaccine clinics at schools or send postcard reminders to children under 18 year old.

But several national GOP leaders are becoming increasingly vocal about the need to vaccinate. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said vaccination was the key to getting out of the pandemic yesterday, and Mitt Romney said politicizing vaccination was moronic.

Delta variant continues to cause cases

The United States reported 31,845 new COVID-19 cases and 331 deaths yesterday, according to the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 tracker.

Data from Johns Hopkins show that 35 states have seen case increases of more than 50%, CNN reports.

"We're losing time here. The Delta variant is spreading, people are dying, we can't actually just wait for things to get more rational," said Francis Collins, MD, director of the National Institutes of Health, on CNN yesterday. Collins also said that 99% of people currently hospitalized with the virus in the United States are unvaccinated.

The 7-day average of new US COVID-19 cases is 28,273, according to data from the Washington Post. New daily cases have risen 106% in the past week.

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