Defining Vaccine Misinformation

Being the good, little, obedient citizen that I am I have decided that I need to know the definition of “Vaccine Misinformation.” It goes by other names: “Medical Misinformation”, “Vaccine Disinformation”, “Vaccine Malinformation” or the simple, shorter, more succinct, not verbose and straight to the point, “Disinformation.”

Why do I need this information on disinformation? Some simple reasons, really:

  1. I do not want to spread misinformation.
  2. I do not want to read misinformation.
  3. I do not want to see doctors who spread misinformation.

I want to be a loyal serf who looks forward to owning nothing and being so very, very happy about it. Extremely happy. Euphoric. But the only way I can do this is if I know what disinformation is. Simple, right? I’ll start in California. Surely, if anyone would have a definition of misinformation it would be people who are making laws to stop misinformation.

The Left Coast: California!

So let’s look at AB 2098, a bill for physicians and surgeons who engage in “unprofessional conduct.” Might need a definition for that too, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

This bill would designate the dissemination or promotion of misinformation or disinformation related to the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, or “COVID-19,” as unprofessional conduct.

Simple enough. Can’t wait to see what that means. They go on to tell me COVID has claimed lots of lives, they tell me the unvaccinated are at greater risk than the vaccinated, they tell me the vaccine’s “safety and efficacy” has been “confirmed,” then they tell me that the “spread of misinformation and disinformation about COVID-19 vaccines has weakened public confidence and placed lives at serious risk.” Then they assure me that major news outlets, a very important source for all serious medical information, confirm the most dangerous spreaders of misinformation are health care professionals. I might also need a definition for “major news outlets” so I know exactly who I should and should not be listening to.

I am getting some sense of a definition, but still nothing definitive. Ahhh… we go, definitions for both “Misinformation” and “Disinformation.” These guys are sharp!

(3) “Misinformation” means false information that is contradicted by contemporary scientific consensus to an extent where its dissemination constitutes gross negligence by the licensee.[emphasis mine]
(4) “Disinformation” means misinformation that the licensee deliberately disseminated with malicious intent or an intent to mislead.

Okay, so let me see if I got this right. Misinformation is “false information.” But what is “false information”?  Well, “false information” is that which does not conform to “contemporary scientific consensus.” Now we’re getting somewhere. But what is “contemporary scientific consensus”? Sorry, folks they don’t define that.

The American Medical Association

Let’s look to the American Medical Association (AMA). Surely, they will have a complete and full misinformation (or is it disinformation?) definition for those us who wish to comply with the overlords in our respective counties, states and countries. After some searching I found “AMA adopts policy to combat disinformation by health care professionals”(opens new window):

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, some health care professionals have deliberately made false claims about COVID-19 vaccines and how the virus is transmitted, peddled untested treatments and cures, and flouted public health efforts such as masking and vaccinations—posing serious health risks to patients and significantly damaging vaccine confidence across the country. The new policy calls for the AMA to collaborate with relevant health professional societies and other stakeholders to combat public health disinformation disseminated by health professionals in all forms of media and address disinformation that undermines public health initiatives.[emphasis mine]

We do have something here: “flouted public health efforts such as masking and vaccinations.” This is apparently bad.  Vaccines, however, are not technically required, right? I haven’t been vaccinated and I’m still a free man. People have decided to quit their jobs in order not be vaccinated. Nobody put them in jail. Many, many people do not wear masks and have not been arrested. There are no laws that say you cannot flout mask wearing and vaccinations. Flout away.

It looks like the AMA is very upset that “vaccine confidence across the country” was damaged. But again, there is no law against damaging someone’s confidence in something. Later in their article we get to hear from a very astute AMA board member, Jesse M. Ehrenfeld, M.D., M.P.H., who says,

Physicians are among the most trusted source of information and advice for patients and the public at large, which is why it’s so dangerous when a physician or other health care professional spreads disinformation.

I whole-heartedly agree, Jesse! But Jesse, what is your definition of disinformation? How can we stop spreading it if we don’t know what it is?

The Surgeon General

Let’s look elsewhere. How about the Surgeon General of the United States, Vivek H. Murthy, M.D., M.B.A.? Surely, surely he can tell us in the document “Confronting Health Misinformation PDF, opens new window(opens new window)” what it exactly is that we are confronting. The opening statement definitely clears it up:

I am urging all Americans to help slow the spread of health misinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. Health misinformation is a serious threat to public health. It can cause confusion, sow mistrust, harm people’s health, and undermine public health efforts. Limiting the spread of health misinformation is a moral and civic imperative that will require a whole-of-society effort.

Amen, Brother! Now, just tell me what misinformation is and I can wrap this up. This is a new one on me. First time I’ve ever heard of “infodemic”:

During the COVID-19 pandemic, people have been exposed to a great deal of information: news, public health guidance, fact sheets, infographics, research, opinions, rumors, myths, falsehoods, and more. The World Health Organization and the United Nations have characterized this unprecedented spread of information as an “infodemic.”

Sounds like maybe they’d like to pare the information down so they could more easily manage “misinformation,” a word this document uses 186 times in its 22 pages. Here are some examples:

Amid all this information, many people have also been exposed to health misinformation: information that is false, inaccurate, or misleading according to the best available evidence at the time.

Misinformation has caused confusion and led people to decline COVID-19 vaccines, reject public health measures such as masking and physical distancing, and use unproven treatments.

Misinformation can sometimes be spread intentionally to serve a malicious purpose, such as to trick people into believing something for financial gain or political advantage. This is usually called “disinformation.”

The document explains how can we help fight misinformation, how we can address misinformation as a society and what strategies we can use. Families, educators, health professionals, journalists, researchers, governments and technology platforms are all given ways that they can deal with the terrible misinformation problem. We know it is prevalent, that it spreads quickly, that it can divide our families and “we know enough to be sure that misinformation is an urgent threat, and that we can and must confront it together.”

Okay, okay, okay, I’m convinced, but what the hell is it? Well, what do you know, at the end of the document there is this:

Note: Defining “misinformation” is a challenging task, and any definition has limitations. One key issue is whether there can be an objective benchmark for whether something qualifies as misinformation. Some researchers argue that for something to be considered misinformation, it has to go against “scientific consensus” (e.g., Chou, Gaysynsky, & Cappella (2020)). Others consider misinformation to be information that is contrary to the “best available evidence” (e.g., Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security (2021)). Both approaches recognize that what counts as misinformation can change over time with new evidence and scientific consensus. This Advisory prefers the “best available evidence” benchmark since claims can be highly misleading and harmful even if the science on an issue isn’t yet settled.[emphasis mine]

So we are back to “scientific consensus” and “best available evidence.” Let’s be blunt, there is, apparently, no scientific consensus on the vaccines and opinions vary widely on what the “best available evidence” actually is. What constitutes scientific consensus, anyway? 51%? 60%? 100%? What about those times in history where the majority were wrong? Wildly wrong? So who decides what the consensus is?

If you’re going to start taking away licenses from healthcare professionals because they engage in disinformation, wouldn’t it be a good idea to actually define it? You know, just list the types of information that are considered misinformation and not allowed for public consumption. For example, if I were to say you will lose your job if you ever mention four, prominent, public, useless assholes, wouldn’t it be a good idea to list the assholes I’m thinking of? So in a company wide memo I could simply list:

  • Bill Gates
  • Joe Biden
  • Kamala Harris
  • Anthony Fauci

Then everyone would know exactly what is expected of them. It just seems so simple.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Maybe, just maybe, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)(opens new window) has an answer for us. Here we go!

  • Misinformation is false information shared by people who do not intend to mislead others.
  • Disinformation is false information deliberately created and disseminated with malicious intent.

Both types can affect vaccine confidence and vaccination rates. Most misinformation and disinformation that has circulated about COVID-19 vaccines has focused on vaccine development, safety, and effectiveness, as well as COVID-19 denialism.

The CDC, thankfully, gives us one example of misinformation (the unintentional spreading of fallacies). Here it is:

FALLACY: Some people are saying that the COVID-19 vaccine will give you COVID-19. That is not true. While you may feel sick after getting the COVID-19 vaccine, that is a sign your body is building protection against the virus that causes COVID-19.

Interesting. I don’t think I’ve read that the COVID-19 vaccine “will give you COVID-19,” but maybe some people are saying that, but no one I know and I read a lot of the misinformation spreaders, the big ones, the ones banned from Twitter, you know, the big guns. What we do know is that the vaccine will NOT STOP you from getting COVID-19. What they say on their site right after this is: “FACT: The COVID-19 vaccine cannot make you sick with COVID-19.” Great. It can give you adverse side effects, it can freaking kill you, but don’t worry, it can’t give you COVID-19. But will it stop you from getting COVID-19? No, the evidence is clear: many, many vaccinated people are getting COVID-19, political leaders included, who are quick to tell us they are still glad they are vaccinated. For the record, I don’t think any of our Marxist leaders got the jab.

No other examples are given on that page but we do learn how to fight misinformation by listening and analyzing, engaging with our communities, sharing accurate information and using “trusted messengers.” Well, great, that’s exactly what I’m doing on The Asylum. No doubt they’d be happy with my work! I shall receive commendations from my comrades!

Still, a longer, more definitive list of exactly, precisely what the misinformation is would be very helpful. You can find articles in the mainstream media that “debunk” COVID myths….as they define them. Often these are the outlandish, obviously false ideas circulating around the internet to make the other side look bad and in other cases it is misinformation by the Covidians themselves, the most famous, of course, being the “safe and effective” propaganda we have heard from day one. But what we need is something from an official health agency.

Finally, An Answer!

So what is the vaccine misinformation that we are all supposed to be avoiding and fighting? The paper, “Patient Betrayal: The Corruption of Healthcare, Informed Consent and the Physician-Patient Relationship” sums up the situation nicely:

As it turns out, there is no real definition for “COVID-19 vaccine misinformation”…. The phrase “COVID-19 vaccine misinformation” constitutes a euphemism, and its true goal is deception. This is because euphemisms don’t create meaning, they disguise and distort or hide it, and have thus been referred to as “the language of evasion, hypocrisy, prudery, and deceit.”

It’s all making sense now.

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