Surgeon general shares guide to fighting online vaccine misinformation

Tuesday's release of a new COVID toolkit by Surgeon General Vivek Muthy aims to help vaccinated Americans dispel any online Covid myths among their family members, friends, and neighbors as part of a new vaccine push.
Murthy stated that the toolkit was created to coincide with federal approvals of Covid vaccination for most children in a Tuesday press release. "Now that COVID-19 vaccines have been approved for children aged 5-11 years, it is even more critical that families have accurate and scientifically-based information. Murthy stated that health misinformation is rapidly spreading online and in our communities.

The digital toolkit is being distributed to teachers, health professionals, school administrators, faith leaders and other community members. It provides advice on how to effectively communicate with people who are hesitant about vaccines and misinformation online.

SEE ALSO: How can you convince young people to get vaccinated

These resources provide explanations about misinformation that is shared online and how it spreads. They also include reflexive activities, such as hypothetical scenarios and prompts to examine your own social media feed. This allows you to practice sharing common misinformation regarding vaccines with other members of your community.

The toolkit states that you should be aware of common methods used to spread misinformation when looking online. This is misinformation that has been intentionally shared to malicious ends, such as to trick people. To feign credibility, disinformation posts often include images of people wearing white coats or holding stethoscopes. These posts often rely on word of mouth stories. Be aware if the post begins with "My brother is a government " or "My sister works as an ICU nurse ..."". Always verify these first-person stories or look elsewhere for information.

A succinct fact checking guide is also available for those times when you aren't sure what to do with health-related content.

Verify that the information has been published by the CDC, a local health department, or other public agencies.

To verify the information, consult a doctor or nurse.

Google to find out if any other credible sources have made similar claims.

To verify the authenticity of the source, look at the "About Us” section on the websites.

If you are unsure of the claims made, don't share.

This toolkit is an addition to previous efforts by the Surgeon General to combat vaccine misinformation. Murthy issued a July public advisory about the threat to health information and asked for help from health workers, media companies and government agencies to stop this "urgent threat" to misinformation.

Other institutions also offer similar resources. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provides a quick FAQ on Covid vaccine misinformation. Team Halo was created by the United Nations. It is a global network of health professionals sharing Covid vaccine information via social media. The CDC published earlier this year its Covid vaccine misinformation guidance, which included a social media toolkit that allows you to post about the vaccine online.

Murthy said in the release that "The good news" is that everyone has the power to stop health misinformation spreading during the pandemics and beyond. This is where the toolkit comes in - to give Americans resources to limit and reduce the threat to public health.