WHO Says COVID Misinformation Is Driving The Pandemic

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The World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters in Geneva
The World Health Organization (WHO) headquarters in Geneva

A top World Health Organization official said coronavirus misinformation has worsened in recent weeks and it is becoming the driving source of case increase around the world. 

Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO technical lead on COVID-19, expressed her concerns on a Tuesday Q&A livestream that she hosted on the organization’s social media channel. When answering pandemic-related questions, she said misinformation has become another risk factor that is “really allowing the virus to thrive.”

“In the last four weeks or so, the amount of misinformation that is out there seems to be getting worse, and I think that’s really confusing for the general public,” Kerkhove said. 

Public health leaders have been blaming conspiracy theories and misinformation for fueling vaccine hesitancy. Organizations like Facebook and Fox News have received backlash for not doing enough to control the spread of fake and misleading COVID-19 information platforms. 

What fueling misinformation about the vaccine? Money.

On Aug. 6, Slate released a report on how "misinformation peddlers are using crowdfunding sites to bankroll their work." In July, a Guardian report revealed that most COVID-19 misinformation came from a dozen people who had a "combined following of 59 million people across multiple social media platforms."

There may be hope that the unvaccinated will change their stance after the Food and Drug Administration’s full approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID shot this week. Three in 10 unvaccinated Americans said they would be more likely to get the vaccine once it is FDA approved, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey.

CNBC noted that some medical experts worry that unvaccinated Americans may have used the lack of FDA approval as a credible explanation for their hesitancy, and will now look to other excuses for why they refuse to get the vaccine.

As the Delta variant is considered twice as contagious as previous variants, health officials’ remain highly concerned about the unvaccinated. Should COVID-19 misinformation continue to dominate social media, there may be a rise in breakthrough infections.

"The Delta variant is going to move its way through the country over the course of August and September, maybe into October. That's what the modeling shows, that's what we expected, that the peak of this epidemic would really be sometime around the end of September, back-to-school season," former FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said in July.

"It's going to get worse before it gets better in terms of the spread of this infection right now."

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