Several infectious disease experts have come forward to back President Joe Biden’s recent contention that social media platforms like Facebook are “killing people” by allowing coronavirus vaccine misinformation to circulate on their services.
One notable expert is Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, the founding director of the Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases at Boston University, who recently told CNBC that “social media is playing a big role in amplifying misinformation, which is leading to people not taking the vaccine, which is killing them.”
She added: “It’s the honest truth. COVID, right now, is a vaccine-preventable disease.”
Bhadelia also pointed to survey results released by the Kaiser Family Fund, which found that 54 percent of Americans either believe in or aren’t able to distinguish whether a common coronavirus vaccine myth is fact or fiction.
She asserted that these large tech companies can do more to stop such misinformation from reaching the general public. “They need to invest a lot more resources, and better enhance their balance of taking that information down more quickly, invest more resources in changing their matrix, because, right now, what gets on top of your page is not what’s correct, it’s what’s popular,” she noted.
Facebook spokesperson Dani Lever pushed back against the White House’s statements.
“We will not be distracted by accusations which aren’t supported by the facts,” she said. “The fact is that more than two billion people have viewed authoritative information about COVID-19 and vaccines on Facebook, which is more than any other place on the internet. More than 3.3 million Americans have also used our vaccine finder tool to find out where and how to get a vaccine. The facts show that Facebook is helping save lives. Period.”
Added Guy Rose, Facebook’s vice president of integrity, on a website post: “President Biden’s goal was for 70 percent of Americans to be vaccinated by July 4. Facebook is not the reason this goal was missed.”
Due to the new and highly contagious Delta variant circulating in the country, the number of coronavirus cases have surged in recent weeks, with the seven-day average of daily infections now sitting at roughly twenty-six thousand five hundred, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University.
The figure represents a sizeable 67 percent jump from just a week ago.
Current estimates released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that a shade below 50 percent of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, while about 56 percent have had at least one vaccine dose.
Data also point to the fact that the majority of U.S. counties with high infection rates currently have less than 40 percent of their respective residents inoculated—with many of them located in the Southeast and Midwest.
“There is a message that is crystal clear: this is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, recently told reporters in a news briefing. “We are seeing outbreaks of cases in parts of the country that have low vaccination coverage, because unvaccinated people are at risk.”
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.