Ever since the Covid-19 virus was discovered in early 2020, the world has struggled to keep up. In the early days of the pandemic, government leaders enacted social distancing and mask mandates to help quell the spread, and life was forever changed. And the approval of vaccines, boosters, and pills to treat and protect against Covid has added yet another layer of complexity to modern life, where change almost seems constant and you must be prepared for anything.
As we learn more about how the virus is transmitted, it can be difficult to know what steps to take to better protect yourself. In addition, misinformation surrounding Covid vaccines, as well as the field of epidemiology itself, is rampant. For ordinary citizens, it can be difficult to determine if a blog post or online source is trustworthy, and the constant flow of information uploaded to the internet every day doesn’t help matters.
Often referred to as “fake news,” misinformation is dangerous from a public health standpoint as it can lead citizens to engage in risky behavior. Misinformation surrounding Covid runs the gamut from downright sensationalism and clickbait to bad science, human error, and even propaganda. Let’s take a closer look at the facts about vaccine production, and ways to address the growing amount of misinformation surrounding Covid.
Common Forms of Vaccine Misinformation
In terms of misinformation, social media is by far the biggest culprit, and the majority of adults aren’t sure what to believe. A recent study on Covid-19 vaccine media and misinformation found that almost 80% of adults either believe or are unsure about the validity of common falsehoods related to the virus. You may have heard about the use of Ivermectin as a safe and effective treatment method against Covid, for example, a falsehood that 14% of the population believe to be true.
Ivermectin is typically used in veterinary applications as a treatment for parasitic infections and is not approved to treat Covid. As with any medication, the use of Ivermectin without a prescription can be hazardous to your health and has several unpleasant side effects, even causing death in rare cases. While it’s unclear how the drug gained popularity as a potential Covid treatment, the misinformation surrounding Ivermectin is a striking reminder of just how dangerous fake news can be.
But Covid misinformation spans well beyond Ivermectin. Many citizens are concerned about the potential reproductive and sexual side effects of Covid vaccines, including infertility and lowered testosterone. Despite rumors to the contrary, vaccines (whether to protect against Covid or another condition altogether) do not impact an individual’s testosterone levels. Rather, lowered testosterone levels are directly linked to many physical health problems, such as diabetes, alcoholism, autoimmune diseases, and more.
The Science Behind Epidemiology and Public Health
In the fight against Covid, science is our biggest ally, and epidemiologists are on the front lines of change. Epidemiology involves the study of diseases and how they spread through populations. For epidemiologists, research incomes with the territory, and the ability to separate fact from fiction in the realm of online media is a crucial aspect of the job.
Whether employed by a research university, healthcare facility, or private organization, epidemiologists conduct research and present that data to medical professionals and the general public alike. According to the University of Nevada, Reno, the field of epidemiology helps foster an increased understanding of public health issues, along with the possible limitations of screening and testing. Epidemiologists also have a duty to improve public health outcomes by any means necessary, such as working to curb Covid-19 vaccine misinformation.
Doing Your Part to Quell the Spread of Misinformation
No matter where you live or the Covid-related mandates in your home country, you can make a difference in the battle against misinformation. Follow all recommendations from public health officials, for starters, and stay on top of new technological developments. Further, avoid the trap of misinformation that’s presented as fact, especially when it comes to your personal health. By personally verifying your sources, you can rest assured that you’re receiving up-to-date information that’s accurate and reliable.
Do your best to weed out questionable sources of information, and perform additional research if needed. If you’re concerned about your heart health and potential side effects of the Covid vaccine, for instance, small lifestyle changes can make a huge difference. Rather than avoiding the vaccine for fear of blood clots or heart disease, consider changing your diet and getting more exercise instead.
Although it may sound counterintuitive, you’ll also want to pay attention to any misinformation that’s circulating in your area. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), analyzing misinformation “can help you understand where, when, why, and how misinformation is spreading in your community.” And with that understanding in hand, you’ll be better equipped to tackle the spread of fake news, putting facts and verifiable data in its place.
From a public health standpoint, controlling the spread of misinformation is vital in the fight against Covid, and we can all do our part.
Damian draws her inspiration from nature and makes sure to explore the outdoors regularly. Feel free to follow her on Twitter @indianalee3.