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San Diego doctors continue fight against COVID-19 misinformation as omicron surges

San Diego County leaders say COVID-19 misinformation is fueling the ongoing pandemic.. KPBS Health reporter Matt Hoffman explains that doctors are still doing their best to dispel bad information during a record surge in infections.

COVID-19 cases are surging like never before and so is misinformation, which is forcing county officials and physicians to continue their frustrating fight to provide people with the facts of the pandemic.

"It's just not true, it's not true," said San Diego County's Chief Medical Officer Dr. Eric McDonald responding to public comments regarding children made during Tuesday's board of supervisors meeting.

Supervisors declared COVID-19 misinformation a public health crisis last year. Since then, McDonald and other doctors from around San Diego have been hosting panels to combat it.

"There were a couple of comments made by the public at the board meeting concerning children," McDonald said. "The first was that since no child under 10 in San Diego has died of COVID, parents shouldn't get their children vaccinated. I think it’s worth saying no child should die of a vaccine-preventable disease, but death is not the only complication ... it can cause severe illness in kids."

RELATED: San Diego County Supervisors Declare COVID-19 Misinformation A Public Health Crisis

Dr. John Bradley of Rady Children’s Hospital echoed those comments and noted that kids are transmitting the virus to others who may be at a higher risk for hospitalization or even death.

"To prevent spread in the community — so we can finally get this pandemic under control — it’s important to immunize kids," Bradley said.

Physicians said there were more inaccurate comments made about children.

"I know one of the comments that was made yesterday (Tuesday) was the vaccine isn't safe, it's killing kids and that's just not true," McDonald said.

Anti-vaccine protesters have been speaking during COVID-19 updates at the San Diego County Board of Supervisors meetings for the last few months. McDonald said their comments are inappropriate.

"They basically significantly understate the severity of COVID-19 in terms of a disease and then they significantly overstate the risk of the vaccine," he said. "That's their modus operandi."

McDonald now estimates that one in 20 San Diegans currently have COVID-19.

"Transmission in San Diego right now as we speak is the highest it’s ever been," he said.

Dr. Christian Ramers of Family Health Centers of San Diego said with the virus rampant in the community right now, people need to take precautions.

"If 5% of people in the county at one time are infectious and you go to a grocery store with 40-50 people in it that’s a lot of people — whether they know it or not — are able to spread the disease," Ramers said. "So it’s just a very, very high-risk time at this point."

Ramers shared data from the United Kingdom highlighting why people should consider booster shots.

"Resulting basically in a vaccine efficacy for the omicron variant with three doses of about 88% protection against hospitalization whereas just two doses is only 52%," he said.

There is more information including fact checks of common misinformation available on the county’s coronavirus website.