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Monday, March 18, 2024

Vaccine Misinformation

 Many posts have discussed myths and misinformation -- especially about COVID and vaccines.

  Kwasi Gyamfi Asiedu at Poynter:

COVID-19 vaccines were quickly developed, with U.S. patients receiving the first shots in December 2020, 11 months after the first domestic case was detected.

Experts credit the speedy development with helping to save millions of lives and preventing hospitalizations. Researchers at the University of Southern California and Brown University calculated that vaccines saved 2.4 million lives in 141 countries from January 2021 to August 2021 alone. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows there were 574 U.S. deaths attributed to COVID-19 the week of March 2, down from nearly 26,000 at the pandemic’s height in January 2021, as vaccines were just rolling out.

But on social media and in some public officials’ remarks, misinformation about COVID-19 vaccine efficacy and safety is common. U.S. presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. built his 2024 campaign on a movement that seeks to legitimize conspiracy theories about the vaccines. We made that our 2023 Lie of the Year.

PolitiFact has seen claims that spike proteins from vaccines are replacing sperm in vaccinated males. (That’s False.) We’ve researched the assertion that vaccines can change your DNA. (That’s misleading and ignores evidence). Social media posts poked fun at Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce for encouraging people to get vaccinated, asserting that the vaccine actually shuts off recipients’ hearts. (No, it doesn’t.) And some people pointed to an American Red Cross blood donation questionnaire as evidence that shots are unsafe. (We rated that False.)

Experts say this misinformation has real-world effects.

A Nov. 2023 survey by KFF found that only 57% of Americans “say they are very or somewhat confident” in COVID-19 vaccines. And those who distrust them are more likely to identify as politically conservative: Thirty-six percent of Republicans compared with 84% of Democrats say they are very or somewhat confident in the vaccine.

Immunization rates for routine vaccines for other conditions have also taken a hit. Measles had been eradicated for more than 20 years in the U.S. but there have been recent outbreaks in states including Florida, Maryland and Ohio. Florida’s surgeon general has expressed skepticism about vaccines and rejected guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about how to contain potentially deadly disease spread.

The vaccination rate among kindergarteners has declined from 95% in the 2019-20 school year to 93% in 2022-23, according to the CDC. Public health officials have set a 95% vaccination rate target to prevent and reduce the risk of disease outbreaks. The CDC also found exemptions had risen to 3%, the highest rate ever recorded in the U.S.