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Critics slam JAMA study claiming 52 U.S. doctors spread COVID ‘misinformation’
By News Editors // Aug 22, 2023

Critics of a study published this week in JAMA concluding 52 doctors from across the U.S., propagated “COVID-19 misinformation about vaccines, treatments, and masks on large social media and other online platforms” called the study nothing more than “propaganda.”

(Article by Monica Dutcher republished from ChildrensHealthDefense.org)

“Ultimately, misinformation is just a weaponized term meaning nothing,” said Vinay Prasad, M.D., MPH. “People who use it are often completely ignorant of science and truth.

Prasad and others pointed to several flaws in the study, including the researchers’ definition of “misinformation,” the reported percentage of those with post-COVID-19 condition, or “long COVID” and the false claim that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine alone led to deaths — as deaths also have been linked to the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines.

The CDC as the arbiter of COVID truths

The University of Massachusetts researchers who produced the study defined misinformation as “assertions unsupported by or contradicting U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] guidance on COVID-19 prevention and treatment during the period assessed or contradicting the existing state of scientific evidence for any topics not covered by the CDC.”

But in an Aug. 16 Substack article, Prasad — a hematologist-oncologist and professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco — challenged the notion of using the CDC as the litmus test for pandemic-related information.

CDC “made many errors,” Prasad wrote, citing a paper he published in March, documenting 25 statistical or numerical errors made by the CDC that he said raised questions about the agency’s “real or perceived systematic bias.”

It’s also well documented that the agency constantly changed its mask guidance and published conflicting information about vaccine effectiveness.

Dominique Brossard, professor and chair of Life Sciences Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who studies medical misinformation, told USA Today, “The guidance kept on changing … Communication around the vaccine was horrible.”

Dr. Jeff Barke, an Orange County, California, primary care physician and founding member of America’s Frontline Doctors, called the CDC “a captured agency,” saying “it makes no sense whatsoever to recommend this toxic product [COVID-19 vaccines] to children.”

The CDC never came out with early treatment guidelines, Barke said. It was always about vaccines and masks. Barke recalled prescribing ivermectin to his patients and the pharmacists not filling it, asking him for the “diagnostic code” in order to proceed.

Barke told The Defender:

“The pharmacy never asks for a diagnostic code if you prescribe OxyContin for a patient. So it’s OK for a doctor to prescribe a Schedule II narcotic — no questions asked — but I can’t prescribe a product that has a proven safety record of 50 or 60 years.”

Barke is a co-plaintiff in a lawsuit to stop a California law that subjects the state’s doctors to discipline, including the suspension of their medical licenses, for sharing “misinformation” or “disinformation” about COVID-19 with their patients.

What exactly is ‘misinformation’? 

The study’s authors identified four categories of “misinformation”:

  • Claiming vaccines were unsafe and/or ineffective.
  • Promoting unapproved medications for prevention or treatment.
  • Disputing mask-wearing effectiveness.
  • “Other misinformation,” to include conspiracy theories and the virus’s origins.

The authors reviewed COVID-19-related posts from doctors on the social media platforms Twitter (now X), Facebook, Instagram, Parler and YouTube between January 2021 and December 2022.

The researchers initially focused their Twitter review on America’s Frontline Doctors’ profile because of the organization’s “volume of COVID-19 misinformation in its tweets” and “large following.”

Physicians who followed America’s Frontline Doctors’ Twitter page were targeted on Twitter and other platforms.

Using the search terms “COVID,” “vaccine,” “doctor,” “physician,” “ineffective,” “pharmaceutical,” “ivermectin,” “hydroxychloroquine” and others, the authors of the study identified 52 doctors — 50 licensed and two unlicensed — who used social media to spread COVID-19 “misinformation.”

Results showed most of the 52 physicians (76.9%) who posted “misinformation” did so in more than one of the four categories identified. The majority posted vaccine “misinformation.”

Dr. Meryl Nass — who on Thursday sued the Maine Board of Licensure in Medicine and its individual members, alleging the board violated her First Amendment rights and her rights under the Maine Constitution — called the JAMA study “a piece of propaganda.”

Nass said:

“There is no science. They [the authors] are trying to make it look like they’re doing something quantitative when they’re not. There was a lot known about the ineffectiveness of the vaccines at the time they were working on this paper.”

Unpacking the misinformation in the misinformation study 

The University of Massachusetts researchers said doctors’ claims that myocarditis was common in children who received the vaccine and that the risks of myocarditis outweighed the risk of vaccination were “unfounded.”

But myocarditis “does outweigh the benefits of vaccinations for some ages — in men — and some doses,” said Prasad, citing an article published in the Journal of Medical Ethics.

The paper, which focused on booster mandates at American universities, concluded the mandates were unethical because they could result in greater health risks, like booster-associated myocarditis, than benefits to healthy young adults.

Several other studies have shown either myocarditis deaths across all age groups, or elevated myocardial injury after vaccination.

The researchers also flagged any posts discussing pre-pandemic studies that definitively concluded masks do not prevent the spread of respiratory viral infections. And they deemed as misinformation any post that undermined the role of masks in slowing the spread of the infection and that pointed to rising cases in areas with mask mandates.

But a plethora of studies on mask ineffectiveness emerged during the time the Massachusetts team was conducting its research on physicians and “misinformation.”

There were also reports on “The Foegen effect” — the idea that deep re-inhalation of droplets and virions caught on facemasks might make COVID-19 infection more likely or more severe. German physician Dr. Zacharias Fögen introduced the concept in a study that concluded: “mask use might pose a yet unknown threat to the user instead of protecting them, making mask mandates a debatable epidemiologic intervention.”

“The totality of the evidence to date shows no benefit from community mask wearing,” said Prasad, who pointed to Cochrane’s multiple analyses.

According to the JAMA study, doctors who said the COVID-19 vaccines were ineffective at preventing COVID-19 spread or that the virus originated in a lab in China were propagators of misinformation.

Yet plenty of data show the vaccines did not prevent transmission, and scientists even testified to evidence that COVID-19 could have resulted from controversial gain-of-function research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

In the wake of the pandemic, multiple organizations have published guidelines on “medical misinformation” — including YouTube andthe American Medical Association (AMA).

Last June, the AMA adopted a new policy to limit medical disinformation, including ensuring that medical licensing boards can take disciplinary action against health professionals who spread health-related disinformation.

In California, however, a judge ruled in January that the state does not have the power to penalize doctors who spread “misinformation” or “disinformation.”

“COVID-19 is a quickly evolving area of science that in many aspects eludes consensus,” the judge decided.

Read more at: ChildrensHealthDefense.org

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