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Study shows 3 out of 4 Americans believe or unsure about at least one false COVID-19 statement

News Literacy
Posted at 5:44 PM, Jan 25, 2022

Editor’s Note: This story is part of Scripps’ National News Literacy Week. This campaign promotes news literacy as a fundamental life skill for America to have an educated and empowered populace.

When it comes to locating the truth, the answers can be harder to find.

Over the past two years, experts told News 5 rampant and problematic misinformation has made its way into the mainstream and is impacting individuals’ knowledge when it comes to the coronavirus.

A recent report by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization that focuses on national health issues, shows three out of every four Americans either believe or aren’t sure about at least one of eight popular false statements surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.

False statements measured in the report include the idea that the vaccine causes infertility, the government is exaggerating the number of COVID-19 deaths, and the vaccine contains a microchip.

“What was really striking to me was how widespread it was,” said Ashley Kirzinger, director of survey methodology at KFF. “I think what we know is that misinformation around health care topics isn't anything new, but the environment around the COVID-19 pandemic has really kind of made it much more widespread than I think anyone initially thought.”

Nationwide, more than 30% of those eligible in the country remain unvaccinated.

“These pieces of information or misinformation and disinformation that are questioning the safety and the efficacy of the vaccines are really striking and could be leading to why some people are more vaccine-hesitant or skeptical,” Kirzinger said.

KFF Stufy

As a result, Kirzinger said discussion over the vaccine has left many uninformed about how to proceed.

“Because everything around the vaccine has become really partisan, people don't feel comfortable talking about it with their friends and family members,” she said. “One of the great ways we learn is from our friends and family members.”

Dr. Kenneth Remy, a pediatric and adult critical care physician with UH Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital, remembers when the most common correction he used to make to patients was about how the flu vaccine does not cause the flu. Nowadays, he told News 5 there’s a daily battle with informing and correcting patients about something they heard or read online about COVID-19.

“This pandemic has spawned an infodemic, and that info is not always correct,” he explained. “The only way we’re going to move forward in this pandemic and maybe the next pandemic is understanding, listening, and providing the best information we have.”

After caring for more than 2,000 COVID-19 patients, Remy said he’s heard it all. And on more than one occasion every day, he sees the moments where a patient learns they were wrong.

“They believe that their vaccination didn't work or that masks didn't work, or that they couldn't become this ill because everybody was recovering and seeing now they're now their realization that the myths that they were believing certainly were myths,” Remy said. “I think that's the sadness.”

Going forward, Remy says he’ll work to keep an open line of communication, whether that’s answering texts from patients, or questions from friends or neighbors, to help combat this infodemic and pandemic that continues to linger.

“There is a light at the end of this tunnel,” Dr. Remy added. “I was hopeful that we would have been there last year, but we're not. So let's get there together, but I can't get there not only with the mutation of the virus, but the mutation of the information. We've got to make sure we have a consistent, accurate and up-to-date messaging system across our profession.”

To learn more from the CDC about misinformation surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, click here.