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As US battles COVID-19, flu shot misinfo spreads

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US well being officers are pushing Americans to get vaccinated in opposition to the flu to assist forestall hospitals already busy battling COVID-19 from being overwhelmed this winter, however false claims are threatening their efforts.

Misinformation on social media, significantly flu shot will improve the chance of contracting the coronavirus or trigger you to check optimistic for COVID-19—it will not—is undermining the general public well being message.

One false declare circulating on Facebook and Instagram mentioned a flu shot would elevate the likelihood of COVID-19 infection by 36 %. Another on Instagram mentioned Sanofi’s flu vaccine Fluzone was 2.four occasions extra lethal than COVID-19.

A nationwide research from the University of Michigan discovered that one in three dad and mom deliberate to skip the flu vaccine for his or her kids this yr, with moms and dads pointing to misinformation, together with the assumption that it isn’t efficient, as a motive.

“Primary care providers have a really important role to play in this flu season,” mentioned Sarah Clark, analysis scientist on the Michigan Medicine Child Health Evaluation and Research Center, who led the research.

“They need to send parents a clear and strong message about the importance of flu vaccine.”

But with day by day COVID-19 infections rising to file ranges in a number of US states, false data stays a barrier to individuals getting vaccinated.

Jeanine Guidry, an assistant professor at Virginia Commonwealth University who research well being messaging on social media, mentioned: “There is so much misinformation related to COVID and I really believe that that spills over” to the flu.

Amelia Jamison, a misinformation researcher and doctoral scholar at Johns Hopkins University, agreed.

“Flu is getting caught up in some of the narratives we see about coronavirus,” she mentioned.

Vaccination hobbled in 2020

According to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), solely 49.2 % of individuals bought a flu vaccine throughout the 2018-19 season.

Aside from misinformation, measures geared toward curbing the unfold of COVID-19 resulted in fewer in-person preventive medical visits, throughout which many obtain the vaccine. And different flu shot clinics usually supplied by employers, church buildings or faculties have been on maintain.

High unemployment because of the financial fallout of the pandemic has additionally left tens of millions of Americans with out medical insurance, that means states might want to decide up the vaccine value for extra sufferers.

While the effectiveness of the flu shot can range relying on whether or not the pressure of flu circulating in communities matches the pressure within the vaccine, the CDC mentioned it prevents tens of millions of sicknesses annually.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the vaccine for all kids over the age of six months.

Flu vaccine skilled Danuta Skowronski, of the British Columbia Center for Disease Control, mentioned: “We saw no association in children nor in adults between the receipt of influenza vaccine and coronavirus risk.”

Social media response

While social media platforms host misinformation, in addition they take actions to unfold dependable steering about vaccines.

This week, Facebook introduced it might begin directing US customers to details about the place they’ll get a flu shot, and promised to reject adverts that discourage vaccination.

Prior to the pandemic, Twitter and Pinterest put in place insurance policies to redirect searches of sure vaccine-related key phrases to public well being organizations.

But Adam Dunn, head of Biomedical Informatics and Digital Health at The University of Sydney, mentioned extra could be finished.

Methods developed to encourage consumer engagement on social media “could be used more judiciously to guide people to credible and evidence-based information,” Dunn mentioned.

He additionally advocated for the creation of extra “communities of pro-vaccine advocacy that are welcoming, honest, and aligned with a diversity of worldviews.”

Libby Richards, affiliate professor on the Purdue School of Nursing, mentioned that “a flu shot is more important than ever this year,” cautioning that extreme instances of COVID-19 and the flu require the identical life saving gear.

“Receiving the flu vaccine will not only provide personal health protection, it will also help reduce the burden of respiratory illness on our already very overstretched healthcare system.”

Richards inspired individuals to take the time to fact-check data.

“There are many myths about the flu vaccine that can clearly be disproved with a little background reading,” she mentioned.

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© 2020 AFP

As US battles COVID-19, flu shot misinfo spreads (2020, October 17)
retrieved 17 October 2020

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