Are Physicians Spreading Fake News About Covid-19 Really in Trouble?
Misinformation with regard to Covid-19 has become so severe to the point that the U.S Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy issued a 22-page report calling for attention to the issue.
In the advisory, Dr. Murthy said, “misinformation is a serious threat to public health. It can cause confusion, mistrust and destabilize public health undertakings including the ongoing work to end the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Dr. Murthy also called on social media companies to curb the spread of fake news with regard to Covid-19 by identifying misinformation on their platforms. He said the cooperation of social media companies is critical to the long-term wellbeing of America. He also urged doctors to talk with their patients about Covid-19 vaccines and correct any fallacies.
Two weeks after Murthy’s advisory was published, the federal government issued a warning to health practitioners that they could face disciplinary action, including losing their license if a Medical board concluded they were spreading fake news on the virus and its vaccines.
What Actions Are Being Taken in The Various U.S States?
In Alabama, health officials say that misinformation is one of the biggest hindrances to getting more people vaccinated against Covid-19. The problem becomes more immense if doctors propagate the fake news.
The health officials also said that there are physicians out there spreading fake news about COVID vaccines. They also noted that while most physicians may not face any penalty, some could lose their medical licenses.
Dr. Scott Harris, an official of the ADPH (Alabama Department of Public Health), said, “we know that over 95% of doctors in America who’ve been offered the vaccine have taken the vaccine. However, I know there are medics out there who think otherwise.”
He went on to say, “All doctors are not the same; there are different levels of training and expertise. There is no doubt that, at times, people’s political opinions play into these kinds of things. It doesn’t happen often, but it happens sometimes.”
In Connecticut, the officials from the DPH (Department of Public Health) say the agency will investigate doctors accused of spreading fake news about Covid-19 and the vaccines meant to end the virus if a complaint is filed with them.
A DPH spokesman, Christopher Boyle, says that if the agency receives a complaint that a medical practitioner is spreading fake news with regard to Covid-19 vaccines, the PIU (Practitioner Investigation Unit) will take action.
According to the president of the CSMS (Connecticut State Medical Society), Dr. Gregory Shangold, an organization that represents over 4,000 doctors and trainees across the state, the agency would support disciplinary action against doctors spreading fake news on the virus.
The Board of Medical Licensure in the State of Mississippi sent out a warning to doctors about spreading misinformation about Covid-19. The agency said physicians have a moral obligation to protect their patients.
The board said that misinformation about the virus puts everyone at risk and wears down the public’s trust in the medical profession. As a result, physicians spreading fake news could be suspended or lose their medical licenses.
What Has the Federal Government Said Regarding This Issue?
The federal government, via the FSMB (Federation of State Medical Boards), warned doctors about spreading misinformation about Covid-19 vaccines.
Joe Knickrehm, a spokesperson of the FSMB, said that the lack of funding and the personnel needed to find any medical practitioners who may be operating outside the medical code of conduct during the pandemic is a problem present throughout the country.
“State medical boards in the U.S mainly operate on a complaint-driven system,” says Knickrehm. “Medical boards depend on members of the public, patients, physician peers, and other entities such as clinics and hospitals to report severe cases of misconduct. These boards don’t have the resources to actively monitor social media platforms for medics spreading disinformation and misinformation.”
He then goes on to say, “We know several boards have taken disciplinary actions against physicians spreading misinformation, and we have unequivocally heard for member boards that they are witnessing an increase in complaints about doctors spreading Covid-19 disinformation and misinformation, and some of them are carrying out investigations as a result.”
In this case, the disciplinary actions for doctors can range from a letter of reprimand, a fine, probation, or the termination of their medical licenses.