There's a piece in The Harvard Gazette this week about a visit by New York Times health and science reporter Apoorva Mandavilli and her argument that the federal government dropped the ball when it came to heading off COVID-19 misinformation. Anti-vaxxers and others "benefited from mistrust engendered by early stumbles in messaging" about the virus and prevention, she said.
"Officials initially put more emphasis on hand hygiene rather than masking and erred in communicating candidly about the vaccines and side effects," she said. "Anti-vaccine activists used all of that to their advantage."
Liz Mineo reports:
To improve trust in public health agencies, officials must have a clear and accurate communications strategy to encourage cooperation and head off rumors and suspicions, said Mandavilli. Leaders should also acknowledge what went wrong with their messaging last time and be more transparent and forthcoming about the information and data they have.
And they could take some important lessons from the anti-vax movement, she said in response to a question from a student in the audience.
“They knew to get the information in early,” she said. “They’re excellent at making it easy to understand; they use bite-sized points, memes, and things that people can really retain. They use social media very well. One thing I kept seeing over and over is that the government was absent from social media.”
In contrast, Mandavilli, said the anti-vax campaigners “were loud. And they were clear. And they had all the answers.”
They really should delineate between true anti-vaxxers and those with suspicions about the COVID-19 vaccine. And Mandavailli should look in a mirror. This is her, right?
The @nytimes “science” reporter who tweeted that the lab leak theory was rooted in racism lectures at Harvard about how the government needs to police misinformation more aggressively. https://t.co/Bxy2Hq61GX pic.twitter.com/ohjZLKqgOS— Jennifer Sey (@JenniferSey) September 27, 2023
Reporter who wrote in NYT that 900,000 children had been hospitalized with COVID when the real number was 63,000—and that 4,000 had died from MISC-C when the real number was 68—tells Harvard governments should be more active in policing “misinformation.”https://t.co/F4wOErAB1L— Michael P Senger (@michaelpsenger) September 26, 2023
And that's why we had to mandate masks on 2-year-olds, or else your daycare could be shut down.
She’s an epic liar— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 26, 2023
True. A disturbing lack of introspection about her long line of extreme statistical misstatements—generally over 1000%—about COVID in America’s most prestigious newspaper. And each time erring in just one direction: that of more terror.https://t.co/pPjsNFtVZ7— Michael P Senger (@michaelpsenger) September 26, 2023
Did you expect @harvardmed to invite their own biostatistician and epidemiologist Professor @MartinKulldorff to talk on the topic after he’s been proven entirely right and sued the government for his censorship?— 𝗦𝗵𝗼𝘄 𝗠𝗲 𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗗𝗮𝘁𝗮 (@txsalth2o) September 26, 2023
Nah! Go with the journalist who got absolutely everything wrong.
Literally it is some media that openly spread misinformation. The messaging on kids for instance was clearly calculated misinformation to "encourage" people to "get vaxxed". In most countries they didn't do this, but media invented stories to push the government policy.— Seth Frantzman (@sfrantzman) September 26, 2023
It's just as disgraceful that some physicians are still citing her as an authoritative source— Joshua Robinson (@JRobFreedom) September 27, 2023
Why does nobody actively challenge these people if they aren’t held to account they will keep on spreading this scaremongering nonsense.— Ian Vincent Scott (@Ianvincentscott) September 26, 2023
Sounds like she should have been fired.— Brent A. Williams, MD (@BrentAWilliams2) September 26, 2023
In her defense, she does work for the NYT, and if she used them as a source, she certainly can’t be held accountable for being wrong.— Stan Goudeau (@Austinescapee) September 27, 2023
The government was NOT "absent from social media."The government suppressed and censored social media. Lives were ruined. Lives were lost. We weren't more clever in reportage: we were more honest and accurate.— Judyth Vary Baker (@Judyth) September 26, 2023
This is exactly accurate Judyth. We are trying to alert people to this but as you know it’s difficult. That’s okay, we will keep trying. Hope you are well. J— Dr. Janci (@JanciToxDoc) September 26, 2023
As The Twitter Files showed, the government certainly was involved with social media … behind the scenes, censoring.
Does anyone still trust her? How does she still have a job?— Kage Spatz (@KageSpatz) September 26, 2023
Here’s some references to it:https://t.co/AUD9fkF42a— TeslaGigaBull (@giga_bull) September 27, 2023
Some of us surmised things were not as reported. The problem was/remains the public health agencies, govts, “accepted experts,” NOT those questioning them.— Swimmingly (@backatchaslick) September 27, 2023
That’s rich. Accountability is dead.— Veyda Girl (@veydagirl) September 26, 2023
The "anti-vaxxers" were banned from social media, so we don't see how they're blaming "memes" for spreading misinformation.