The harsh consequences of vaccine misinformation on social media

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It was there that he read about a high survival rate among people who had had Covid-19, and where he saw people questioning whether the masks were effective. Sells said he and his friends didn’t think tackling the pandemic was particularly urgent. And based on the posts he saw on social media, Sells decided he didn’t need to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

“This attitude is what left me totally unprepared for Covid,” he said.

In late July, Sells, a retired pilot, flew from Georgia, where he lives, to an air show in Wisconsin.

“My last post before I disappeared was this event, and I posted, I’m with 500,000 people, barely a single mask, and it smacks of freedom,” Sells said.

Three days after the show, Sells had a fever and felt extremely tired. While her fever flared a few days later, the exhaustion did not go away. He hoped that increasing his vitamin intake and resting would bring him some relief. This is not the case.

After a televisit with his doctor, Sells was tested and learned he tested positive for Covid-19.

He later spoke with a friend who suggested he go to the hospital for respiratory treatment.

Sells didn’t realize how bad his situation had become. At the hospital, he said his doctor told him they didn’t know if they could help him, but that they were going to do whatever they could.

“They put on an oxygen mask and squeezed it really hard. They started putting the heart monitors on me, then asked me if I wanted to be resuscitated. And I’m in total shock,” he said. -he declares.

Disinformation, an “urgent threat”

Public health experts have long feared that disinformation will leave parts of the United States unprepared to stay safe and healthy in the face of Covid-19 or other potential health issues.

Surgeon General Dr Vivek Murthy called the misinformation an “urgent threat”. In July, Murthy released an advisory report saying “Health misinformation is a serious threat to public health. It can confuse, distrust, harm people’s health and undermine public health efforts.” .

With the Covid-19 vaccines recently available for children aged 5 to 11, Murthy is concerned about the impact misinformation may have on vaccination for this age group.

“We have to beware of this misinformation,” Murthy said in an interview with CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta at the Citizen by CNN event Thursday.

“I want parents to know their questions are important,” Murthy said. “But it’s important that they also turn to credible sources for answers to these questions, such as their doctor, their children’s hospital, their local health department or the CDC.”

Facebook has a harder time dealing with vaccine misinformation than it suggests, leaks show
But reluctance to immunize exists in all age groups, not just among parents of young children. A Kaiser Family Foundation A poll released in September found that fears over rising Covid-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths from the Delta variant have led to a recent increase in vaccination. Yet, according to the CDC, only about 78% of the U.S. population aged 12 and over has received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.

From what Sells had seen online, he didn’t expect Covid-19 to leave him hospitalized and barely able to breathe.

“Social networks are full of this information to meet your agenda. The algorithm sends you exactly what you want to hear,” he said. “And I was filled with this information.”

In recent weeks, social media giant Facebook has been in the spotlight for its role in spreading disinformation. Despite public statements that the company has prioritized resources to tackle disinformation on its platform, internal Facebook documents provided to Congress say otherwise.

“We have no idea how big the [Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy] problem regarding comments, ”notes an internal research report published on Facebook’s internal site in February 2021, a year after the start of the pandemic. “Our internal systems don’t identify, demote, and / or delete anti-vaccine comments often enough,” the report noted.

Getting vaccinated and losing friends

In hospital, Sells was treated with oxygen and antiviral remdesivir, as well as steroids and blood thinners.

Sales began to stabilize 18 hours after his admission to hospital. He spent the next 16 days in hospital, mostly in intensive care.

While Sells had no preconditions that made him more vulnerable to Covid-19, his age put him at a higher risk of serious illness.

“Granted, older people may tend not to do as well. But Covid is a very, very variable disease,” said Dr Arvind Ponnambalam, Sells doctor and pulmonologist at Piedmont Fayette Hospital in the suburb of Atlanta. “It can be very hit or miss in different patient populations. And a lot of times it’s very hard for us to tell how someone is going to do it.”

Sells is still undergoing physical therapy to regain his strength and stamina. Even a minor effort always leaves him exhausted.

What frustrates him the most, however, is that it was preventable.

Sells says he plans to get the Covid-19 vaccine next week, now that he’s been cleared by his doctor.

“I don’t want anyone going through what I’ve been through,” Sells said.

“We really need the world to know the truth and the consequences of not getting vaccinated.”

Sells said he has already lost friends over his recent vaccine advocacy, but it’s worth it.

“They don’t know what I know now,” he said. “We need to get the word out so we can get our hospitals back and slow the death rate.”


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