The danger of COVID conspiracy theorists

QUICK READ: At times, the public health response to coronavirus (COVID-19) has been scary, characterized by antimask behavior, antivaccine beliefs, conspiracy theories around the development of the vaccine, and a general belief that even COVID numbers are false. These people are doing more harm to others than they know, and they are generally making themselves irrelevant.

According to JAMA “education matters. In a study that included 9654 US adults, 48% of those who had a high school education or less believed there was some truth to the conspiracy theory that COVID-19 was planned but only 15% among those with some postgraduate training endorsed this idea”. But what about those who have an education and still believe and spread COVID misinformation?

Beliefs about COVID-19 are more likely to occur in someone who believed there is a faulty systems for monitoring and evaluating scientific information. A real conspiracy actually exists, and it is usually uncovered by journalists, whistleblowers, document dumps from a corporation or government, or it’s discovered by a government agency.

A conspiracy theory, on the other hand, is discussed at length on the internet by people who are not bona fide journalists or government officials or whistleblowers in an organization or investigative committees of regulators. They’re completely independent sources, individuals who self-nominate and put themselves forward as being in possession of the truth. In principle, that could be true.

It has proven incredibly difficult to tamp down misinformation about coronavirus and the surrounding public health initiatives to stop its spread.  Social networks like TwitterFacebook, and YouTube have stepped up with more efforts to identify, label, and take down COVID-19 misinformation, their work has been imperfect. The lack of consensus on COVID-19 has made even the most harmless of measures, like wearing a mask, look leery.

If just one person gets COVID and dies because he, she, believes in a COVID conspiracy theory they have caused harm and should be held accountable. Many of the falsehoods online don’t have obvious sources or intentions. Rather, they often begin with niche groups mobilizing around their favored agendas like the distrust of pharma. I have been critical of big pharma for putting profits first but I trust the COVID vaccines because they have been development for over ten years. What about the J&J vaccine? You have a better chance of getting struck by lightning than developing a side effect from the J&J vaccine.

According to Govind Persad, an assistant professor at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and Greenwall Foundation Faculty Scholar in Bioethics, there is no evidence the vaccine’s risks universally, or even typically, outweigh its benefits in preventing a pandemic disease with serious and unknown consequences. The agencies should end the pause, keep sharing information and let patients decide.

Some say we are guinea pigs and that these vaccines are being tested on us. That also is a huge falsehood. They have been tested per the FDA, and to die, those who have been vaccinated have less than a .008% chance of riding up in the hospital with COVID.

There are some challenges that the medical community has to address, such as how many people really died of COVID versus how many red because they are obese and had comorbid health conditions. Still, it will take years to analyze that data.

Yes, pharma has issues with profits ver patients, but I trust that the COVID vaccines work and that the more people who get vaccinated, the better for society. God help those who show pictures of crowds without masks or social distancing. They are a huge threat to healthcare.