The U.S. Surgeon General issued an advisory on Thursday on the dangers of health misinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Vivek Murthy said myths have led people to reject the vaccine and put lives at risk.
“Today we live in a world where misinformation poses an imminent and insidious threat to our nation’s health,” Murthy said.
Murthy is on the offense and taking on the fight against falsehoods. He said inaccurate information is costing lives.
“We must confront misinformation as a nation. Every one of us has the power and responsibility to make a difference in this fight. Lives are depending on it,” he said.
Murthy issued an advisory Thursday urging Americans, health organizations, tech companies, government agencies, news organizations, educational institutions, and tech companies to stop the spread of misinformation online. He said that is one reason why millions of Americans aren’t getting the shot.
“I think in a moment like this where we see misinformation literally costing us our loved ones, costing us lives,” Murthy said. “All of us have to ask how we can be more accountable and responsible for the information we share.”
Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, weighed in during a Zoom interview with News 6. He said inaccurate information is a public health risk.
“All of those claims that you may see on social media are readily debunked if you go to authoritative sources, but they’re widely spread oftentimes by well-meaning people. Once they get started it’s hard to stop them,” Collins said.
He adds as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are on the rise, especially in hot spots like Florida, now is the time to get vaccinated.
“Maybe this is a wake-up call, if we needed one more, for people who have been on the fence to decide, ‘Okay enough already. I’m going to hit the reset button on all the information I’ve heard about this and look and see what’s the real evidence,’” Collins said.
The advisory lists recommendations including urging people to pause before sharing anything online to check and see if it is coming from a reliable source.
Murthy is also calling on tech companies to step up and do more to stop the spread of misinformation.