Surgeon General Publishes Guide to Fighting Misinformation About COVID-19 Vaccines – Community News
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Surgeon General Publishes Guide to Fighting Misinformation About COVID-19 Vaccines

The toolkit is specifically aimed at talking with friends and family.

The government’s top doctors released a step-by-step toolkit Tuesday morning to help people fight misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccines in their own close circles.

“We need people in communities across our country to have these conversations,” Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said in an interview with ABC News.

“This is not just the government that needs to be involved in these talks. It is at least individuals with people they trust in their lives and who have great power when it comes to helping them move our vaccination coverage in the right direction, Murthy said.

The guide provides a roadmap for vaccinated people to talk to unvaccinated people who have bought into conspiracy theories or lies spread on the internet about the COVID-19 vaccines.

Over the summer, the surgeon general issued an advisory calling misinformation a pressing public health threat.

The toolkit, which Murthy hopes will be used by health professionals, faith leaders, teachers or parents with children newly eligible for the injection, is the next step in tackling the ongoing problem. A November poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that nearly eight in 10 adults have encountered false statements about COVID-19 and either believed them or aren’t sure they’re true.

“During the COVID 19 pandemic, misinformation has killed people, so we have no option to give up,” Murthy said.

He called for greater transparency in the tech industry as misinformation spreads rapidly on social media platforms.

“The companies have done some work to tackle health disinformation, but they haven’t done nearly enough. And it’s not happening nearly fast enough,” Murthy said.

The information released Tuesday encourages people to talk in person rather than online. One section is even titled “If you’re not sure, don’t share!”

It includes discussion questions and illustrations that explain why people share misinformation or what a hypothetical conversation about misinformation might look like.

The recommended approach relies heavily on listening, empathizing, and avoiding embarrassment.

“When talking to a friend or family member, emphasize that you understand that there are often reasons why people find it difficult to trust certain sources of information,” it reads.

Murthy acknowledged that it may be difficult for vaccinated Americans to be empathetic or understanding when many are angry that unvaccinated Americans have allowed the virus to spread.

“But nobody generally changes their mind when they feel shame and guilt, when there’s something that hardens people in their position,” Murthy said.

He described a conversation he recently had with an unvaccinated man who had seen myths about the vaccines on Facebook. They talked for 30 minutes, he said. Murthy called it an “open, honest conversation” about what the man was concerned about.

“And I tried to share with him what we knew and what we didn’t know. I was trying to be honest about what the science is actually telling us,” Murthy said.

“He then sent me a note saying that after that conversation he made the decision to get vaccinated, and he was eventually vaccinated,” Murthy said.

“So what we need to do is start by listening to people, by being empathetic, trying to understand where they’re coming from, why they have the beliefs that they have, and then trying our own experience with to help them access to credible sources, such as their doctor or other people they really trust who are credible scientific sources,” he said.