Panel of doctors addresses COVID-19 misinformation in San Diego County
Speaker 1: (00:00)
As part of the ongoing effort to combat misinformation surrounding COVID-19 a group of medical experts yesterday held a panel, debunking a number of widely circulated false claims. Here's Dr. Mark Sawyer of Rady children's hospital.
Speaker 2: (00:16)
You say, we don't know what side effects this vaccine causes or the vaccine hasn't been studied enough or not taking into account that we have given these vaccines to over 200 million people in the United States. So we know exactly what the serious side effects are because we've given enough doses that we can measure that
Speaker 1: (00:36)
The panel was primarily held in response to claim's voice. During the public comment portion of recent county supervisor meetings, someone who has been particularly vocal in the fight against misinformation is county supervisor Nathan Fletcher, who in August introduced a resolution to declare COVID misinformation, a public health crisis. He joins the program. Now chair Fletcher, thanks for being here
Speaker 3: (00:59)
Today. Thank you very much for having me on.
Speaker 1: (01:01)
So San Diego county is the first jurisdiction in the nation to declare health misinformation, a public health crisis, and others have since followed. Why do you think a formal declaration will help curb the spread of misinformation?
Speaker 3: (01:15)
Well, healthy disagreements in our society are a wonderful thing. Differences in values, positions, interpretations, but that's not primarily what we're encountering as it relates to COVID in particular, as it relates to vaccines, what we are encountering is people saying things that are just simply not true. And the unfortunate reality is, you know, I never thought listening to your pediatrician or your family physician would become a partisan issue, but that's, what's happened with the rise of the anti-vaccine movement and the health misinformation movement. And we can't stop what people say that is first amendment protected speech, even if it's untrue or vulgar or profane, but what we can do. And what I believe we must do is everything possible to inform the public about medically relevant, scientifically founded information, to equip people, to, to be able to make better decisions. And so we're doing everything we possibly can to fight back against misinformation, to put the doctors are front and center. And if there's just one person who hears what is actually medically correct and gets a vaccine and it saves their life, then I think it's all worth it.
Speaker 1: (02:16)
You know, as part of this declaration, what actions in addition to yesterday's panel will be taken to combat misinformation.
Speaker 3: (02:23)
So as a county, we launched a specific website. You know, we realized it isn't enough to proactively tell people what the science says, what the medical community says. Uh, we have to aggressively refute the things that they hear, whether they hear it on Facebook, where they hear it at a board of supervisors meeting. So we coalesced a lot of the most common myths that are out there that are, that are permeating our society and causing people to be hesitant to do the right thing. Uh, we did this panel with the doctors, which we will continue to do again, a first in the nation effort to directly combat when people say, uh, we're pushing all of that out, uh, virtually digitally, uh, working those ways. And we're looking for other ideas. I, I heard a great suggestion that perhaps we launch a hotline where people can call in and connected directly to a medical professional to have that conversation. So it's more of a two way dialogue and effort, and we'll continue to explore everything else we can do.
Speaker 1: (03:18)
Do you think wider access to the kind of medical expertise that was provided in this panel will sway people to change their views?
Speaker 3: (03:25)
Well, it's not going to change everyone's views. I mean, you see some of the folks who come down to the meeting, it's, it's, you know, there's probably a, you know, we'll keep trying hope Springs eternal. You never give up. But I think that there are some folks that are on the, on the fence. And there are some folks that, you know, I mean, what, what, what, what a terrible tragedy, when you read the stories of people who were taking their last breaths on a ventilator, in a ICU staring down death, and they're begging their family members to please get vaccinated, don't believe what I believe. Um, and I don't want that to happen to anyone. And so I do think there is a period of education. There's a period of working through myths misinformation, and, and we can make progress. And, and we just can't give up because it seems a feudal or frustrating or difficult. We just got to continue fighting for our public.
Speaker 1: (04:12)
You know, the panel of doctors yesterday worked to address some of the most common claims surrounding COVID-19. Uh, what do you view as some of the most dangerous misinformation that's currently circulating about the pandemic?
Speaker 3: (04:23)
Well, I think a lot of what you hear around the vaccine is really troubling. The vaccine is, is the way out of this. Uh, you know, you hear misinformation about masks and misinformation about test and positive cases and the origins of COVID and, and a lot of that information, but reality is what we face now is a pandemic of the unvaccinated. We know, we know clearly based on the data, uh, your probability of getting COVID, if you're vaccinated is significantly lower and in particular, the COVID is effective at stopping you from having serious illness, hospitalization, and death at, at exceedingly high numbers. But yet people continue to say these things that more people have died from the vaccine and from COVID and all of these, all of these things that give people concern and, and pause, and, and again, you know, an issue. It it's just, you know, I think about it this way.
Speaker 3: (05:11)
You know, I, I hear, you know, veterans will come down to our board meetings and say, it's, it's, it's ridiculous. The military is mandating vaccines. We started mandating vaccines in the military, in the 17 hundreds, George Washington dead, or people get upset. The kids have to get it to go to school, but every single one of us who went to a public school got vaccinated. And so things that historically in America, haven't been partisan. Haven't been ideological, haven't been this divisive. They are in this time. And so, you know, we've just got to do everything. I don't care what your party is or who you're going to vote for. I want everyone to be healthy and safe and listen to their doctors
Speaker 1: (05:44)
And speaking of parties, I mean, do you see COVID misinformation as a partisan issue? Or are you seeing these claims circulated across party lines?
Speaker 3: (05:53)
Well, yeah, I mean, it, it, it's, it, you know, you can't say it's exclusively party, but it's certainly driven in large part by the Republican party. And you can look at the differential, uh, in voter registration and states, vaccine rates, you can look at where you have pockets of the highest number of un-vaccinated. You can look at the vote on health misinformation, combating health misinformation was a partisan vote, three Democrats voting to do it, two voting, not to. When we mandated all new hire county employees must be fully vaccinated. That was a partisan vote. And this is not an issue that ought to be partisan. I respect that the parties disagree on issues and, and I can respect people are coming from a place of principle on so many of the areas. We have disagreement listening to your doctor and doing the strategies we've done for decades upon decades, if not centuries ought not be a partisan issue. And so we're really appealing to San Diego to make the decision that's best for you, your health and your family, and listen to your doctor. And it's, it's incredibly frustrating that this has become a partisan issue.
Speaker 1: (06:53)
I've been speaking with county supervisor, Nathan Fletcher, cheer Fletcher. Thank you so much.
Speaker 3: (06:58)
Joining us. Appreciate the opportunity. Thank you.
An independent panel of local doctors Wednesday participated in a virtual event intended to address what the doctors said was COVID-19 misinformation brought up at Tuesday's San Diego County Board of Supervisors meeting.
During the 70-minute session, which was open live to the public for viewing, the doctors dispelled misleading claims about COVID-19, vaccine efficacy and approval, as well as misinformation about side effects and alternative treatments for the virus.
The panel, moderated by Dr. Eric McDonald, county chief medical officer, included Dr. Omid Bakhtar from Sharp Healthcare, Dr. Cynthia Gyamfi- Bannermann from UC San Diego Health, Dr. Christian Ramers from Family Health Centers of San Diego and Dr. Mark Sawyer from Rady Children's Hospital.
Their discussion included the accuracy of COVID-19 tests, the safety of the vaccines, the usefulness of masks, the efficacy of treatment options and other issues that came up at board meetings.
County Health and Human Services Agency staff are tracking COVID-19 misinformation shared during public comment following coronavirus presentations to the board.
Efforts to specifically target COVID-19 misinformation began after the board adopted a policy, at Chair Nathan Fletcher's request, declaring misinformation a public health crisis.
In August, San Diego County became the first jurisdiction in the United States to declare health misinformation a public health crisis, and others have since followed.
The county also has launched a new website — https://www.sandiegocounty.gov/content/sdc/hhsa/programs/phs/community_epidemio logy/dc/2019-nCoV/EvaluatingInformation.html — to debunk common false claims about COVID-19 and educate people on where to find credible medical information sources
A video of the virtual event is available on the coronavirus-sd.com website. More virtual panels are expected to take place after future Board of Supervisors meetings where a COVID-19 update is provided by county staff.