U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy on Thursday made a personal appeal to the American public, revealing 10 of his family members have died of Covid-19, as he issued an urgent warning about the dangers of vaccine misinformation.
Murthy shared the personal anecdote during a White House press briefing held hours after releasing an advisory—the first under the Biden administration—addressing what he labeled an “urgent threat of health misinformation.”
Having previously revealed he lost some relatives during the pandemic, Murthy told reporters on Thursday that 10 of his family members in both the U.S. and India have now died from the virus.
The top doctor highlighted that these family members would likely still be alive if they had had access to vaccines as data indicates nearly all Covid-19 deaths are now among the unvaccinated.
He then outlined the “insidious” threat of wrong or misleading information about the vaccines spreading online, which he deemed “one of the biggest obstacles that is preventing us from ending this pandemic.”
Murthy delved into these threats in the 22-page advisory released Thursday morning. The stark statement warned of the tangible impacts of misinformation, leading people to resist safety measures like mask wearing, turn down proven treatments and choose not to get vaccinated. “Simply put: health misinformation has cost us lives,” Murthy said. The surgeon general in his notice called for an “all-of society approach” to combat the issue, urging social media companies to crack down on bad actors, individuals to share correct information with their friends and family offline, and health organizations to take a more proactive approach to stamping out false claims.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said during the press conference that 65% of anti-vaccine misinformation on social media platforms is coming from just 12 people. “All of them remain active on Facebook despite some being banned on other platforms, including ones that Facebook owns,” Psaki said. She did not publicly name the platforms and the White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“Surgeon general advisories are reserved for urgent public health threats,” Murthy said in the White House briefing room. “And while those threats have often been related to what we eat, drink and smoke, today, we live in a world where misinformation poses an imminent and insidious threat to our nation’s health.”
“Microchips, Magnets And Shedding: Here Are 5 (Debunked) Covid Vaccine Conspiracy Theories Spreading Online” (Forbes)
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