RT: Maria Van Kerkhove, Head ai Emerging Diseases and Zoonosis at the World Health Organization (WHO), speaks during a press conference on the situation of the coronavirus at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, January 29, 2020.
Denis Balibouse | Reuters
A senior World Health Organization official said misinformation about Covid-19 and vaccines appears to have worsened in recent weeks, preventing people from getting the injections and causing an increase in cases around the world.
Public health executives have blamed conspiracy theories and misinformation for growing suspicions about vaccines around the world – so much so that US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy last month declared Covid misinformation a “serious public threat” in the US.
“Over the past four weeks or so, the amount of misinformation out there seems to be getting worse and I think this is really confusing for the general public,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO technical director on Covid-19 , while a Q&A was broadcast live on the organization’s social media channels on Tuesday. That has become another risk factor that “really allows the virus to thrive,” she said.
Misinformation has become a growing problem during the outbreak, fueling concerns about vaccines among a suspicious public, health officials say. They hope that Pfizer’s formal approval of Covid vaccine on Monday will help put some people on the fence to get immunized against the vaccine.
According to a survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation conducted July 15-27, three in ten unvaccinated Americans said they would be more likely to receive the vaccine once it is approved by the FDA. Some medical experts fear that some unvaccinated Americans will use the lack of FDA approval as a credible explanation for their hesitation and will now look for other excuses as to why they refuse to get the vaccine.
Most unvaccinated Americans believe that the Covid vaccines pose more of a threat to their health than infecting themselves with the virus, according to Kaiser’s data. Americans, who are the least likely to get a Covid-19 vaccine, are mostly white, less likely to have a college degree, and are Republicans, according to Kaiser’s data.
Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said misinformation about the vaccine is “one of the greatest challenges we still face in getting the public vaccinated”.
“We have heard false claims that the Covid-19 vaccine causes infertility, contains microchips, and causes Covid-19,” Marks said. “And worse, we’ve heard false claims that thousands of people died from the vaccine. Let me be clear: these claims are just not true.”
The director of the WHO Latin America branch, the Pan American Health Organization, personally appealed to residents of the Caribbean to “wake up” from the slumber of misinformation and get vaccinated as Covid misinformation spreads across the islands.
Misinformation has plagued public school board meetings across the country as school districts weigh mask and vaccine mandates for children and staff returning for the upcoming school year. Parents and community residents have appeared at public school board meetings to meet education and public health officials to consider masking requirements as videos of residents citing unsubstantiated and false claims about Covid and vaccines go viral on social media will.
The vaccination could help us get Covid-19 under control by spring 2022, according to the president’s medical advisor, Dr. Anthony Fauci.
“I would like to appeal to the people in the country who are not vaccinated to recognize that we have the opportunity to substantially shorten the time frame until the end of this pandemic,” Fauci said during a press conference on Tuesday. “Get vaccinated and the time frame will be drastically reduced.”