Surgeon general issues health misinformation advisory amid vaccination push

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Surgeon General Vivek MurthyVivek MurthyMurthy: COVID-19 vaccine development could bring ‘cures and treatments for other illnesses much, much closer’ Do you need a vaccine booster and other questions swirling around COVID Pfizer to brief US health officials on coronavirus booster shot: report MORE on Thursday issued an advisory calling health misinformation an “urgent threat” amid the COVID-19 vaccination push. 

“Health misinformation is an urgent threat to public health,” Murthy said in a statement. “It can cause confusion, sow distrust, and undermine public health efforts, including our ongoing work to end the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The advisory, the first issued by the surgeon general during the Biden administration, calls for a range of sectors to take action.

It calls on technology and social media companies to do more to fight misinformation on their platforms, including redesigning algorithms to avoid amplifying misinformation and strengthening the monitoring of it. 

It also simply calls on individuals to engage with friends and family.

“If someone you care about has a misperception, you might be able to make inroads with them by first seeking to understand instead of passing judgment,” the advisory says. 

The push comes as about a third of adults remain unvaccinated and the administration is seeking new ways to reach people. 

The surgeon general pointed to polling from the Kaiser Family Foundation finding that 67 percent of unvaccinated adults have heard a COVID-19 vaccine myth and either believed it or were not sure if it was true. 

Murthy also pointed to research published in the journal Science that found false news stories were 70 percent more likely to be shared on social media than true ones. 

Rising Republican vaccine resistance, and some lawmakers and media hosts raising doubts about the vaccine, is also posing an obstacle in the fight against the pandemic. 

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, health misinformation has sowed confusion, reduced trust in public health measures, and hindered efforts to get Americans vaccinated,” the advisory states. “And misinformation hasn’t just harmed our physical health—it has also divided our families, friends, and communities.”

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