Quantcast
Connect with us

As US battles COVID-19, flu shot misinformation spreads

Published

on

A nurse practitioner wears personal protection equipment as she administers a flu vaccination to a woman at a CVS pharmacy in Key Biscayne, Florida in September 2020 (AFP)

US health officials are pushing Americans to get vaccinated against the flu to help prevent hospitals already busy battling Covid-19 from being overwhelmed this winter, but false claims are threatening their efforts.

Misinformation on social media, particularly that a flu shot will increase the risk of contracting the coronavirus or cause you to test positive for Covid-19 — it won’t — is undermining the public health message.

ADVERTISEMENT

One false claim circulating on Facebook and Instagram said a flu shot would raise the probability of Covid-19 infection by 36 percent. Another on Instagram said Sanofi’s flu vaccine Fluzone was 2.4 times more deadly than Covid-19.

A national study from the University of Michigan found that one in three parents planned to skip the flu vaccine for their children this year, with mothers and fathers pointing to misinformation, including the belief that it is not effective, as a reason.

“Primary care providers have a really important role to play in this flu season,” said Sarah Clark, research scientist at the Michigan Medicine Child Health Evaluation and Research Center, who led the study.

“They need to send parents a clear and strong message about the importance of flu vaccine.”

But with daily Covid-19 infections rising to record levels in several US states, false information remains a barrier to people getting vaccinated.

ADVERTISEMENT

Jeanine Guidry, an assistant professor at Virginia Commonwealth University who studies health messaging on social media, said: “There is so much misinformation related to Covid and I really believe that that spills over” to the flu.

Amelia Jamison, a misinformation researcher and doctoral student at Johns Hopkins University, agreed.

“Flu is getting caught up in some of the narratives we see about coronavirus,” she said.

ADVERTISEMENT

Vaccination hobbled in 2020
According to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), only 49.2 percent of people got a flu vaccine during the 2018-19 season.

Aside from misinformation, measures aimed at curbing the spread of Covid-19 resulted in fewer in-person preventive medical visits, during which many receive the vaccine. And other flu shot clinics typically offered by employers, churches or schools have been on hold.

ADVERTISEMENT

High unemployment due to the economic fallout of the pandemic has also left millions of Americans without health insurance, meaning states will need to pick up the vaccine cost for more patients.

While the effectiveness of the flu shot can vary depending on whether the strain of flu circulating in communities matches the strain in the vaccine, the CDC said it prevents millions of illnesses each year.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the vaccine for all children over the age of six months.

ADVERTISEMENT

Flu vaccine expert Danuta Skowronski, of the British Columbia Center for Disease Control, said: “We saw no association in children nor in adults between the receipt of influenza vaccine and coronavirus risk.”

Social media response
While social media platforms host misinformation, they also take actions to spread reliable guidance about vaccines.

This week, Facebook announced it would start directing US users to information about where they can get a flu shot, and promised to reject ads that discourage vaccination.

Prior to the pandemic, Twitter and Pinterest put in place policies to redirect searches of certain vaccine-related keywords to public health organizations.

ADVERTISEMENT

But Adam Dunn, head of Biomedical Informatics and Digital Health at The University of Sydney, said more can be done.

Methods developed to encourage user engagement on social media “could be used more judiciously to guide people to credible and evidence-based information,” Dunn said.

He also advocated for the creation of more “communities of pro-vaccine advocacy that are welcoming, honest, and aligned with a diversity of worldviews.”

Libby Richards, associate professor at the Purdue School of Nursing, said that “a flu shot is more important than ever this year,” cautioning that severe cases of Covid-19 and the flu require the same life saving equipment.

ADVERTISEMENT

“Receiving the flu vaccine will not only provide personal health protection, it will also help reduce the burden of respiratory illness on our already very overstretched healthcare system.”

Richards encouraged people to take the time to fact-check information.

“There are many myths about the flu vaccine that can clearly be disproved with a little background reading,” she said.


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
READ COMMENTS - JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Continue Reading

2020 Election

Jared and Ivanka threaten to sue the Lincoln Project for ‘enormous’ damages over Times Square billboards on COVID: report

Published

on

Attorneys representing Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump are threatening to sue the Lincoln Project over two Times Square billboards criticizing the administration's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Lincoln Project posted a copy of a letter sent by attorney Marc Kasowitz.

"I am writing concerning the false, malicious and defamatory ads that the Lincoln Project is displaying on billboards in Times Square," Kasowitz wrote.

"Those ads show Ms. Trump smiling and gesturing toward a death count of Americans and New Yorkers, and attribute to Mr. Kushner the statement that "[New Yorkers] are going to suffer and that's their problem" (alteration in original), with body bags underneath," the letter read.

Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

Vaccine trials resume after pauses by AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson

Published

on

Two major clinical trials for experimental Covid-19 vaccines got back on track in the United States Friday -- providing a glimmer of hope as the number of cases skyrocket across the country.

Covid-19 has now killed more than 223,000 Americans, and the health crisis is a top issue in the presidential election pitting incumbent Donald Trump against Joe Biden.

AstraZeneca announced that the trial of its vaccine candidate, developed with Britain's University of Oxford, has resumed in the US, the only country where it remained suspended following a participant's illness six weeks ago.

Continue Reading
 

COVID-19

Fauci: Trump hasn’t been to a coronavirus task force meeting in ‘months’ and hasn’t talked to me ‘in a while’

Published

on

NIH Director Says White House Now Has 'Different Priorities' Than Coronavirus

Dr. Anthony Fauci says President Donald Trump has not attended a coronavirus task force meeting in "several months." Fauci, the most respected and most recognized health official in the federal government, also says meetings of the task force have been only "about one per week."

Almost since its inception the task force had been meeting daily, but that dropped done to weekly several weeks ago, Fauci told MSNBC's Chuck Todd. Vice President Mike Pence still leads the group.

Continue Reading
 
 
Democracy is in peril. Invest in progressive news. Join Raw Story Investigates for $1. Go ad-free. LEARN MORE