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Sunday, May 12, 2024

Medical Misinformation

In The Politics of Autism, I analyze the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism. This bogus idea can hurt people by allowing diseases to spread  And among those diseases could be COVID-19.

Antivaxxers are sometimes violent, often abusive, and always wrong

The COVID-19 pandemic spotlighted a growing problem: the pervasiveness of false claims about health. To better understand how people in the US view health inaccuracies and learn about them through media use, KFF (formerly Kaiser Family Foundation), a nonprofit organization focused on health policy, tracked exposure to and beliefs about certain claims. For their Health Misinformation Tracking Pilot Poll, conducted last year, public opinion researchers at KFF asked a nationally representative sample of 2007 Black, Hispanic, and White adults about inaccurate information pertaining to COVID-19, gun violence, and reproductive health. The survey team also asked where people get their news and which sources of health information they trust.

The poll showed that trust in health care professionals crossed party lines: 95% of both Democrats and Republicans reported trusting their personal physicians to provide the right recommendations about health issues. “Doctors are particularly well positioned to be the messengers when it comes to health recommendations that people really trust,” Lunna Lopes, MSc, the lead author of the report and a senior survey analyst at KFF, told JAMA Medical News in an interview.

Most people have a fair amount of trust in the government to provide accurate information about health issues, but trust varies across political party lines. For example, 87% of Democrats reported trust in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention compared with 49% of Republicans. State and local public health officials were trusted by 74% of Democrats and 58% of Republicans.
Overall, 96% of participants reported that they’ve heard at least 1 of the 10 inaccurate health claims listed on KFF’s survey—that measles-mumps-rubella (MME) vaccines cause autism, for example, or that ivermectin is effective against COVID-19. And while exposure to health misinformation was rampant, the percentage of people who have heard false claims and believe they’re probably or definitely true ranged from 14% to 35%. “A key takeaway that we got from the data is that people are hearing misinformation, but not many are convinced that it’s true,” Lopes said.