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AMA Calls on Tech Companies to Fight Back Against Misleading Vaccine Information

By Jonathan Springston, Editor, Relias Media

The American Medical Association (AMA) has sent a letter to the leaders of top social media and technology companies, urging them to ensure users can access correct, scientifically researched information about vaccines.

In the letter, addressed to the CEOs of Facebook, Pinterest, Amazon, Google, YouTube, and Twitter, AMA CEO and Executive Vice President James L. Madara, MD, says his organization is concerned about “anti-vaccine related messages and advertisements targeting parents searching for vaccine information on your platforms.”

“As physicians, we are concerned that the proliferation of this type of health-related misinformation will undermine sound science, further decrease vaccinations, and persuade people to make medical decisions that could spark the spread of easily preventable diseases,” Madara wrote. “With public health on the line and with social media serving as a leading source of information for the American people, we urge you to do your part to ensure that users have access to scientifically valid information on vaccinations so they can make informed decisions about their families’ health.”

Additionally, Madara called on these tech giants to outline how they will combat vaccine misinformation. Before the AMA sent its letter, Facebook stated its intention to reduce vaccine misinformation "by reducing its distribution and providing people with authoritative information on the topic.” Tactics include rejecting ads with misinformation about vaccines and reducing the ranking of people and pages that spread this misinformation.

“We also believe in providing people with additional context so they can decide whether to read, share, or engage in conversations about information they see on Facebook,” wrote Monika Bickert, vice president of global policy management. “We are exploring ways to give people more accurate information from expert organizations about vaccines at the top of results for related searches, on pages discussing the topic, and on invitations to join groups about the topic.”

As of March 14, there have been 268 reported cases of measles across 15 states in 2019. In communities where outbreaks have been reported, the CDC says such outbreaks occurred where there were “pockets of unvaccinated people." In the upcoming April issue of Hospital Infection Control & Prevention and the May issue of ED Management, healthcare experts and emergency providers discuss strategies to limit the disease and educate community members amid the recent spike in measles outbreaks reported in New York, Oregon, and Washington. Be sure to check out the issues to learn how to prevent and contain this highly contagious disease.