April 15, 2024 7:15 PM

Does the Government Have a Role in Combating Vaccine Misinformation? – Inside Sources

Vaccines are crucial in preventing diseases, saving lives, reducing disability and lightening the burden on the nation’s healthcare system. Therefore, the government has a compelling interest in combating vaccine misinformation to prevent the promulgation of factually incorrect information that causes deaths.

That is the argument presented in an amicus brief filed with the Supreme Court in Murthy v. Missouri by several prominent medical organizations, including the American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Family Physicians, American College of Physicians and American Geriatrics Society.

Vaccination is, after all, a pillar of disease prevention, and the CDC estimates that between 2021 and 2030, more than 50 million deaths will have been prevented worldwide through immunization.

The brief highlights the commitment to public health of the organizations, whose members are actively involved in the delivery of patient care and the development of disease-prevention strategies. The organizations represent hundreds of thousands of medical professionals who have witnessed the lifesaving effect of vaccination and recognize the destructive potential of misinformation.

The crux of the issue in Murthy v. Missouri is “whether the government’s challenged conduct transformed private social media companies’ content-moderation decisions into state action and violated respondents’ First Amendment rights.” The government’s stance is that its communication with social media companies was non-coercive and intended to address online misinformation hazards by identifying content violating the companies’ policies.

The amicus brief focuses narrowly on the effect of misinformation on COVID-19 vaccination, emphasizing how false information that encourages vaccine rejection hampers the vaccines’ ability to control disease spread and save lives. It posits that combatting vaccine misinformation is a legitimate government effort to prevent factually incorrect statements from jeopardizing lives.

The brief cites studies showing the significant effect of COVID-19 vaccinations on preventing deaths and reducing mortality among hospitalized patients — an estimated 235,000 COVID-associated deaths in the United States prevented in vaccinated adults just between Dec. 1, 2020, and Sept. 30, 2021, and reduced mortality by as much as 40 percent among hospitalized patients. 

It also underscores the stress that under-vaccination places on medical resources and the worse health outcomes that result from increased strain on hospitals and health professionals. (And, thereby, vaccines reduce government expenditures on preventable diseases.)

The brief also points out that outcomes are worse when healthcare providers’ time and resources are diverted from clinical care to combating vaccine misinformation.

It also debunks some of the insupportable claims made by “anti-vaxxers,” such as that COVID vaccines “magnetize” individuals, implant them with tracking microchips, or make them infertile. It emphasizes that although such claims lack credible evidence, they and other inaccurate assertions have contributed to declining vaccination rates, leading to the resurgence of infectious diseases that were nearing eradication and increased healthcare expenditures.

Measles is a case in point. The most infectious vaccine-preventable disease caused by viruses, it illustrates what can happen when the public becomes blasé about vaccination. Before vaccines were available, every year in the United States, there were 3 million to 4 million cases of measles, 48,000 hospitalizations, and 400 to 500 deaths. Measles was declared eliminated in the United States in 2000 after there were no cases for more than a year due to an aggressive vaccination campaign. However, the CDC issued an emergency warning on January 25, telling the public to remain vigilant after 23 cases were confirmed in eight states between December 1, 2023, and January 23, 2024.

What explains that? About 92 percent of U.S. children have been vaccinated against measles, mumps and rubella (by the MMR vaccine) before age 2 — below the federal target of 95 percent, which would restore herd immunity.

The physicians’ organizations’ amicus brief reinforces the safety of FDA-approved vaccines and their lifesaving role. It argues that misinformation about vaccines reduces immunization uptake, hindering their effectiveness as part of a well-functioning public health system.

The legal timeline of the case involves a District Court ruling in July 2023 that limited the administration’s communication with social media companies. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals partially upheld this ruling, and in October, the Supreme Court temporarily maintained the modified District Court order until a potential ruling in June.

I join with my physician colleagues in urging the Supreme Court to rule against the spread of toxic misinformation and in favor of promoting public health.


One Response

  1. I am not trained in medicine but I can read and use my cognitive skills. In the 1980’s I read two articles on Nicaragua one saying the Marxist Sandinistas were revitalizing the country for the betterment of the people and the other saying the Contras supported by America was working to make Nicaragua free from Communist control of all aspects of life in Nicaragua. One viewpoint had to be wrong. Anthony Fauci has been defrocked as a Judas of US government healthcare by his dictatorship over all communications and using grant funding to reward and punish persons analysis and other comments. We cannot trust our government And the covid 19 jab is not a vaccine; its a DNA altering cocktail.

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