Every day, more and more people in Maryland are getting their COVID-19 vaccines. While perhaps not progressing as quickly as some would like, over 880,000 Marylanders have received their shots. The news that the Biden administration has increased orders for both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines means that, hopefully soon, even more shots will find their way into the arms of Marylanders. However, as efforts to mass-vaccinate our state accelerate, I have no doubt that efforts to spread misinformation about the vaccine will as well. As you decide whether you will get a COVID vaccine (and I really hope you do), I would ask that you please be wary of vaccine misinformation.
While many of my colleagues and I firmly believe in the therapeutic benefit of the COVID vaccines, there are many who wish to spread fear and misinformation about the vaccine. Organized efforts to sow distrust of vaccines is not new; it is something that we in healthcare have been combating for a very long time. However, as our nation begins the largest mass vaccination program since the eradication of polio, those opposed to vaccines are developing sophisticated strategies to spread misinformation and doubt.
Much of the strategies for sowing disinformation involves the use of social media. Social media being used to spread misinformation is, sadly, not new and certainly not limited to the COVID vaccines. To their credit, companies such as Facebook and Instagram are trying to combat the deliberate spread of misinformation on their sites. However, their actions are reactionary by nature and, inevitably, some escape notice.
Attempting to dispel every piece of vaccine misinformation currently being found on social media would be impossible: there is simply too much and it changes too rapidly. However, what I can say is this: much of the misinformation being promulgated right now seeks to convince you that the COVID vaccines are unsafe. Whatever evidence they are claiming to cite simply does not exist. Both of the vaccines have undergone extensive clinical trials. The data on the trials, all of which is freely available online, was reviewed by both the companies and the FDA before it was determined to be safe. Additionally, as vaccines are being administered, there is ongoing safety monitoring to ensure there are no adverse events that were missed during development. To date, the CDC states that they have “not detected patterns in cause of death that would indicate a safety problem with COVID-19 vaccines”.
I understand that deciding whether you will get a COVID vaccine is a big decision and I realize you probably have questions about the vaccine. That is completely understandable. If you do have questions about the vaccine’s safety and whether it is right for you, I would ask that you please talk to your doctor about it. Facebook and Instagram are great for sharing pictures and connecting with friends but it should not be where you get your health advice.
Despite what social media may tell you, the COVID vaccines are safe. As COVID vaccines begin to be opened to the general public, each of you will have to decide whether you will get yours. You deserve to be informed about the benefits and risks of receiving these vaccines; just please make sure that your information is based in scientific evidence and not misinformation and ulterior motives.