Rex Huppke: COVID-19 vaccine misinformation from Fox News & GOP is killing people, with an assist from Big Tech
These recent headlines tell the story of a crime:
“COVID-19 infections are rising again in parts of Illinois.”
“US COVID-19 cases rising again, doubling over three weeks.”
“Covid-19 cases are surging in 46 states.”
Hospital beds in Missouri, Mississippi, Alabama and a number of other states are again filling up with COVID-19 patients, a crisis that was entirely preventable. Virtually every American hospitalized right now with COVID-19 is unvaccinated.
People are dying unnecessarily, and it’s a crime, with a list of suspects that shouldn’t surprise anyone: Fox News talking heads attacking medical experts, Republican lawmakers stirring doubt about vaccines and social media companies allowing vaccine disinformation to overwhelm sound medical advice.
U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy released an unusual advisory Thursday labeling health misinformation an “urgent public health threat,” calling it “one of the biggest obstacles that’s preventing us from ending this pandemic.”
“Today, we live in a world where misinformation poses an imminent and insidious threat to our nation’s health,” Murthy said from the White House. “Simply put, health misinformation has cost us lives.”
We’ve heard this anecdotally throughout the pandemic, even before vaccines were available. A father who believed rhetoric coming from the former administration that the coronavirus was no worse than the flu and wound up on a ventilator, then in a grave. A mother who bought into foolish claims that face masks threatened our freedoms before falling ill to the virus, spreading it to others and spending weeks in intensive care.
Then came the vaccine, safely and swiftly driving down the number of infections. With that success came the noise of right-wing opportunists eager to politicize the very act of getting a vaccination, to cast a nefarious cloud over the current administration, as it’s the one now responsible for taming the pandemic.