Vivek Murthy: misinformation poses an insidious threat to America’s health

Indian American Surgeon General “who has lost 10 family members to Covid” urges Americans to get the jab

Striking a personal note, Indian American Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy has issued his first official advisory to combat misinformation about Covid-19 vaccines posing “an insidious threat” to America’s health.

“Surgeon General Advisories are reserved for urgent public health threats,” he noted at a White House press briefing Thursday. “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.”

“Health misinformation is false, inaccurate, or misleading information about health, according to the best evidence at the time,” Murthy said.

“And while it often appears innocuous on social media apps and retail sites or search engines, the truth is that misinformation takes away our freedom to make informed decisions about our health and the health of our loved ones,” he said.

“On a personal note,” Murthy said “it’s painful for me to know that nearly every death we are seeing now from Covid-19 could have been prevented.

Read: Delta variant ‘more transmissible and dangerous’, says Vivek Murthy (June 25, 2021)

“I say that as someone who has lost 10 family members to Covid and who wishes each and every day that they had had the opportunity to get vaccinated.”

“I say that also as a concerned father of two young children who aren’t yet eligible for the vaccine, but I know that our kids are depending on all of us to get vaccinated to shield them from this virus,” Murthy said.

“Every week, I talk to doctors and nurses across our country who are burning out as they care for more and more patients with Covid-19 who never got vaccinated — all too often because they were misled by misinformation.”

“We must confront misinformation as a nation,” Murthy said. “Every one of us has the power and the responsibility to make a difference in this fight. Lives are depending on it.”

Noting that the US has “come a long way in our fight against Covid-19,” Murthy said, “right now, we are seeing Covid deaths markedly down from their peak in January.

“We have 160 million people who have been fully vaccinated. And hundreds of thousands of people each day are choosing to get vaccinated,” he said.

“But we are not out of the woods yet. Millions of Americans are still not protected against Covid-19, and we are seeing more infections among those who are unvaccinated.”

Describing misinformation as “an imminent and insidious threat to our nation’s health” and “one of the biggest obstacles that’s preventing us from ending this pandemic,” Murthy outlined a six point plan to combat misinformation about Covid-19 vaccines .

With an all-of-society approach to fight misinformation, Murthy’s advisory has recommendations for everyone.

Read: As ‘America’s doctor,’ Vivek Murthy vows a war on Covid-19 (February 26, 2021)

First, it includes recommendations for individuals and families asking people to raise the bar for sharing health information by checking sources before they share.

Second, it asks health organizations to proactively address misinformation with their patients.

Third, it asks educational institutions to help improve health information literacy. It also asks researchers and foundations to help learn more about how health misinformation spreads and how to stop it.

Fourth, expecting more from technology companies, the advisory asks them to operate with greater transparency and accountability.

Fifth, it asks news organizations to proactively address the public’s questions without inadvertently giving a platform to health misinformation that can harm their audiences.

Sixth, the advisory notes that government can play an important role too by investing in research, by bringing individuals and organizations together to address misinformation, and by supporting groups that are working on this issue.

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