Everyone, regardless of the size of their audience, has a responsibility to make sure people have accurate information about COVID-19, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, who this week called for an end to the misinformation that is being spread online about the disease, said Friday.
"I'm very concerned about the misinformation that's out there," Murthy told MSNBC's "Morning Joe." "I think it's preventing people from getting vaccinated right now, certainly prevented people from wearing masks, and I think what all of us have an obligation to do regardless of the size of our platform whether we have millions of people who follow us or a few people, we have a responsibility now to help people access accurate information."
He made his comment after show co-host Mika Brezenski asked him if matters could change if former President Donald Trump would deliver a major speech and call on Americans to get their shots and to disregard what they're seeing being posted on Facebook.
Murthy didn't directly address what would happen if Trump took a stance against misinformation, but called for everyone to take part in stopping its spread.
Murthy on Thursday said he was declaring war on COVID misinformation, insisting in his first advisory as surgeon general that "misinformation is an urgent threat to public health" and that it is putting lives at risk while prolonging the pandemic.
"We know there are two-thirds of people unvaccinated right now who are saying they believe common myths about COVID-19 or think they might be true," said Murthy, commenting as COVID numbers are climbing again, primarily in the unvaccinated, as the Delta variant of the virus spreads.
"We have to reach out to the people who trust us, family friends, or followers...we have to let them know that vaccines are safe and effective, they save many people's lives."
The surges of deaths taking place nationwide are in people who have not been vaccinated, and that is a "tragedy," he said.
"Every one of those deaths is one that may have been avoided if people would have been vaccinated," said Murthy. "A year ago we didn't have a vaccine, we were seeing people die, and we didn't know how to stop that. Now we do know how to stop it. And it breaks my heart that we can't get accurate information to people so they can get the vaccine."
The Biden administration has already been taking some steps and will take more to stop the spread of misinformation, said Murthy.
"One is, we recognize that we're a big country and not everyone trusts the same people or same news sources," he said "What we have to do is work in supporting a number of trusted messengers and communities. We have to get the message out."
Part of the push is to work with local doctors and nurses because 80% of those who aren't getting their shots say they want to talk to a local healthcare provider before they make a decision, said Murthy.
He admitted that breaking through the misinformation is a "very complicated and challenging problem" but he hopes that with the numbers climbing again that people will "take a second look at the vaccine and realize this is still our best pathway out of this pandemic."
Another part of the problem is that many people wanted to get the vaccine from their doctor, but in the beginning, there was a limited supply of treatments.
"As the supply increased we began urging states to get the vaccine into doctors' offices," said Murthy. "We've already had thousands and thousands of doctors' offices which have gotten the vaccine which are administering the vaccine each and every day to their patient and that will only increase. We'll keep working hard to make sure the doctors' offices have access to the vaccine. It has been a priority since day one, but unfortunately supply limited the ability to distribute to as many offices as we wanted."
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