San Diego County declares misinformation a public health crisis
San Diego’s County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday declared medical misinformation a public health crisis.
The move is an effort to turn attention to factual medical information and away from inaccurate or misleading facts, especially as the highly infectious delta variant continues to spread throughout the country, driving up cases nationwide.
“At a pivotal time in our history, with an FDA-approved vaccine available to all San Diegans free of charge and booster shots recommended later this year, health misinformation now presents a greater threat to public health than a variant of COVID-19,” Board of Supervisors Chair Nathan Fletcher wrote in a letter outlining the measure.
He pointed to vaccine hesitancy as a result of medical misinformation.
“In response, the Board of Supervisors of the County of San Diego recognizes the vaccine hesitancy, that stands in the way of the County moving beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, is being fueled by the spread of health misinformation, and continues to developing strategies to actively combat health misinformation,” the letter added.
The measure will now allow the county to: identify and label health misinformation; modernize public health communications; expand research efforts to better identify the sources of health misinformation; recognize best practices for stopping the spread of misinformation; determine research gaps to combating misinformation; and work with the medical community and local partners to establish a website that will be a central resource for addressing health misinformation in the county.
It does not, however, mandate penalties for information that officials say is misinformation, according to the Tribune.
“Nothing in this measure would take away anyone’s right to say whatever they want to say,” Fletcher said.
Fletcher said the measure made San Diego become the first county in the country to designate medical misinformation as a public health crisis, the Tribune reported.
The move comes more than a month after Surgeon General Vivek Murthy issued an advisory that called health misinformation an “urgent threat” during the COVID-19 vaccination push.
The advisory called on technology and social media companies to do more to combat misinformation on their platforms, and encouraged individuals to engage with friends and families.