‘Parallel epidemic’ of misinformation hurting Albertans alongside COVID-19 pandemic

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Medical field veterans have written an op-ed about the “tidal wave” of misinformation in Alberta during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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NS open letter The vaccine was written in response to concerns and fake information that doctors say is “prolonging the epidemic and blocking access to health systems.”

“Uninfected people are being infected, hospitalized and dying of COVID-19, which is a largely preventable infection. Misinformation is delaying epidemic control and threatens both our pandemic response and our ability to function as a cohesive society,” the statement reads.

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The signing list included Dr. Verna Yiu, CEO and President of Alberta Health Services.

The Alberta Medical Association, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta, and both the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Medicine also signed the letter.

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It addressed a variety of topics Albertans may have questions about the safety of the vaccine for children, pregnant women, as well as adverse and long-term effects.

One of the contributors, infectious disease specialist Dr Leonora Sachsinger, said the letter underscores that the science is undeniable.

“We were concerned about the disproportionate attention being given to a group of outsiders – their views on COVID-19 and how to deal with it,” she said.

Saxinger said it’s important for people to understand that groups with specific expertise — those who have devoted their lives to the public health sector — are involved in decision-making.

“This is a stressful time in Alberta with the current COVID-19 pandemic,” the letter reads. “But there is a secondary epidemic that needs to be addressed – misinformation spreading rapidly through our social and digital media platforms.”

“Here are the facts,” the letter reads as the list goes on. “The vaccines for COVID-19 are effective. Vaccines for COVID-19 have been proven to be safe. Vaccines for COVID-19 are not ‘experimental’. COVID-19 vaccines provide stronger protection than acquired (or natural) immunity from infection. “

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Timothy Caulfield said that misinformation is one of the “defining features of the pandemic”.

Caulfield cited the false narrative that had surfaced recently about an experimental COVID-19 pill reducing hospitalizations and deaths in people infected with the coronavirus by half.

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He said the example highlights how important it is to deal with information quickly and efficiently.

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Caulfield said it’s complicated to explain who is propagating the misinformation, but said there may be profit-linked motivations, individual anti-vaccine “brands” or nation states attempting to create a chaotic environment.

“Unfortunately, it is increasingly about ideology. This makes it hard to debunk. It becomes part of the personal identity of these individuals.”

The researcher suggested a few ways to fight misinformation or call out its victims.

“We need to teach critical thinking, media literacy. We need to involve regulators like Health Canada and the FDA.” he said. “We need to have face-to-face conversations and listen to people and get a sense of ‘why’ they are reluctant. Give them a way to credible information.”

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