The COVID-19 pandemic has faced an influx of misinformation online, leading to vaccine hesitancy. To address this, the Doctors for Truth and Public Welfare (DTPW) appeared on the National Press Club’s Report to the Nation media forum to ask the public to be more discerning and to listen to the right experts as everyone is accountable for the information being shared online.
“Anyone can say what they want on their own social media, but not everyone has the legitimacy to be interviewed,” adds DTPW co-convenor Dr. Minguita Padilla. She notes that background checks must always be done to ensure they get information from well-respected professionals. Lauding the medical organizations that condemned peddlers of fake news, Dr. Padilla also noted the need for our country to create a playbook that guides the handling of misinformation – something she believes will help address the politicization of vaccines. “When you politicize health, you lose the scientific information. We must separate vaccines from politics,” she says.
“Media are our partners in battling this pandemic. They have a big role to play by giving platforms to credible sources and interviewing the right people,” says Former Health Secretary and DTPW co-convenor Dr. Esperanza Cabral. “This isn’t just about being a doctor. We need to weigh how many doctors have studied this issue and found that vaccines are safe and effective, versus the few who have opinions that haven’t been published in credible studies,” she said to clarify concerns on how one can learn to check the credibility of their sources.
The doctors reiterated that the COVID-19 vaccines authorized by the Food and Drug Authorization are effective in protecting individuals from the disease, including the more transmittable Delta variant. They were joined by vaccines expert Dr. Lulu Bravo who noted that vaccination is more important than ever as the new variants may require more aggressive immunization numbers to reach herd immunity. “Vaccines are our key out of the pandemic, and the media has such a big responsibility to help save lives. Every fake expert that gets a platform on mainstream media kills with their disinformation,” Dr. Bravo states.
When asked about the measures that should be taken against non-experts sharing fake news online, Dr. Esperanza noted that media coverage of unscientific statements can easily be taken down from Facebook and YouTube. They also suggest that the same channels that aired the misinformation can then provide credible professionals a chance to speak on their programs. Further, they warn the public from listening to those that question the safety of scientifically-proven vaccines as many anti-vaxxers are known for either politicizing or commercializing health issues.
“When we politicize health issues, no one wins,” says Dr. Padilla. “We need to be careful with who we listen to, especially if they are trying to sell alternatives to vaccination because they’re just trying to profit from this deadly pandemic,” echoes Dr. Bravo. The doctors then reminded the public that if vaccines are not available yet to them, they must continue to follow the minimum health protocols of wearing face masks and maintaining social distance.