The harsh aftermath of the vaccine misinformation on social media

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There he read of a high survival rate among people who had Covid-19 and saw people wondering whether masks were effective. Sells said he and his friends didn’t think fighting the pandemic was particularly urgent. And based on posts he saw on social media, Sells decided he didn’t need to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

“This attitude left me completely unprepared for Covid,” he said.

In late July, Sells, a retired pilot, flew from Georgia, where he lives, to an air show in Wisconsin.

“My last post before I disappeared was this event, and I posted, I’m with 500,000 people, hardly a single mask, and it smells like freedom,” said Sells.

Three days after the show, Sells had a fever and was feeling extremely tired. While his fever broke a few days later, the exhaustion persisted. He hoped increasing his vitamin intake and resting would bring him some relief. It didn’t.

After watching his doctor on TV, Sells was tested and found out he was positive for Covid-19.

He later spoke to a friend who suggested he go to the hospital for respiratory therapy.

Sells did not realize how serious his situation had become. At the hospital, he said his doctor had told him they didn’t know if they could help him, but they would do anything they could.

“They put an oxygen mask on and pulled it tight. They started putting my heart monitors on and then asked me if I wanted to be resuscitated. And I’m totally shocked,” he said.

Misinformation as an “urgent threat”

Public health experts have long feared that due to misinformation, parts of the United States are not prepared to stay safe and healthy in the face of Covid-19 or other potential health issues.

The general surgeon Dr. Vivek Murthy has described misinformation as an “urgent threat”. In July, Murthy published an advisory report that said, “Health misinformation is a serious threat to public health. It can create confusion, sow suspicion, harm people’s health and undermine public health efforts.”

With Covid-19 vaccines recently made available to children ages 5-11, Murthy fears the impact of misinformation on vaccine uptake in this age group.

“We have to beware of this misinformation,” Murthy said in an interview with CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta at the Citizen by CNN event on Thursday.

“I want parents to know that their questions are important,” Murthy said. “But it is important that you also turn to credible sources for answers to these questions, such as your doctor, your children’s hospital, your local health department or the CDC.”

Facebook is having a harder time dealing with vaccine misinformation than it admits, according to leaks
However, there are vaccination hesitations in all age groups, not just parents of young children. A Kaiser Family Foundation A poll published in September found that fears of rising Covid-19 cases, hospital admissions and deaths from the Delta variant have caused the recent surge in vaccinations. Still, according to the CDC, only about 78% of the US population ages 12 and older have received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine.

Based on what Sells had seen online, he didn’t expect Covid-19 to take him to the hospital and barely breathe.

“Social media is full of this information to work on your agenda. The algorithm sends you exactly what you want to hear, ”he said. “And I was filled with this information.”

In the past few weeks, social media giant Facebook has been in the spotlight for its role in spreading misinformation. Despite public statements that the company has prioritized resources to fight misinformation on its platform, internal Facebook documents made available to Congress say otherwise.

“We have no idea of ​​the extent of the [Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy] “Problem with comments,” reads an internal research report published on the internal Facebook site in February 2021, a year after the pandemic began. The report pointed out.

Get vaccinated and lose friends

In the hospital, Sells was treated with oxygen and the antiviral remdesivir, as well as steroids and blood thinners.

Sells began to stabilize 18 hours after he was admitted to the hospital. He spent the next 16 days in the hospital, most of the time in the intensive care unit.

While Sells did not have conditions that made him more susceptible to Covid-19, his age put him at a higher risk of serious illness.

“Sure, the elderly tend not to do this as well. But Covid is a very, very variable disease,” said Dr. Arvind Ponnambalam, Sells doctor and pulmonologist at Piedmont Fayette Hospital in suburban Atlanta. “It can be very random in different patient populations. And often it is very difficult for us to say how someone will fare.”

Sells is still going to physical therapy to rebuild his strength and stamina. Even small exertion leaves him exhausted.

But what frustrates him most is that this was avoidable.

Sells says he plans to get the Covid-19 vaccine next week now that it’s cleared by his doctor.

“I don’t want anyone to go through what I’ve been through,” Sells said.

“We really need the world to know the truth and the consequences of not vaccinating.”

Sells said he’s already lost friends over his recent vaccine advocacy, but it’s worth it.

“You don’t know what I know now,” he said. “We need to get the word out so we can get our hospitals back and slow the death rate.”


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