The California State Legislature has sent a bill to Gov. Gavin Newsom that strengthens discipline for doctors who knowingly spread Covid-19 misinformation. Legislation like this is sorely needed across the country.
More than two years into the pandemic, Covid-19 misinformation still runs rampant. Some comes from doctors spreading lies about unproven — and actually harmful — “treatments” for Covid-19 and promoting anti-vaccine conspiracy theories. Physicians account for three of the 12 individuals thought to be responsible for up to 73% of anti-vaccine content on Facebook. These physicians have been highly influential in their claims that, for example, masks suppress the immune system and that, after getting the vaccine, “becoming sterile [is] almost a certainty.” These lies have real and potentially deadly consequences.
An effective response to misinformation and its effects requires a multilayered approach, including one that holds rogue physicians accountable for their pronouncements, helping to preserve integrity within the medical profession.
As a primary care physician, I see the effects of Covid-19 misinformation every day. Some of my patients continue to decline getting vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, based on false theories about immunizations causing death or decreased fertility. A few have become severely ill from the virus just weeks after saying “no” to vaccination during their visit to my office.
They are not alone. Polls have shown that 78% of U.S. adults believe common false statements about Covid-19. Multiple reports document cases of individuals who have been harmed or died after trying harmful Covid “treatments” like drinking methanol and taking ivermectin. Nationwide, misinformation is responsible for up to 30% of people’s decisions to not get vaccinated and has contributed to the more than 300,000 Covid-19 deaths that could have been prevented by vaccines.
I find it shocking that some of the doctors peddling medical misinformation are still practicing medicine without accountability. These professionals, who swore an oath to protect the health of their patients, have been undermining trust and contributing to poor health outcomes.
The scientific and medical communities have taken modest steps to rein in this type of behavior. Last year, th …