Biden’s COVID-19 task force chief warns anti-vaxxers are targeting Black people

Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, Biden's chief medical adviser on the COVID-19 task force
Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, Biden’s chief medical adviser on the COVID-19 task force

  • The head of Biden’s COVID-19 response team said anti-vaxxers are targeting Black Americans. 
  • Black Americans are receiving fewer vaccines than white Americans, per preliminary data.
  • Conspiracy theorists targeted other communities of color, like Latino and Asian Americans.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

The head of President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 response team said anti-vaxx campaigners are targeting Black Americans. 

Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, a Yale University associate professor who serves as the co-chair of Biden’s coronavirus task force, said anti-vaccination campaigners are targeting Black Americans using misinformation, the Financial Times reported. 

The anti-vax movement refers to the uptick in debunked claims about vaccines on social media over the last decade. Anti-vax members have used fake claims that vaccines cause autism and alter DNA to deter people from getting shots. 

Nunez-Smith said anti-vaxxers are tailoring misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccines, which have not caused serious side effects in the majority of recipients, to appeal to Black Americans.   

“If you think about what it is to have 400 years in this country [since slaves first arrived in the US] being marginalized and minoritized, you can imagine the distrust you would have in the system,” she told the FT. “There are actors out there trying to take advantage of that with misinformation about the vaccines, especially among some of the communities that have been hardest hit [by the pandemic].”

Nunez-Smith, who also leads Biden’s COVID-19 health equity task force, did not say what actions the president’s team has taken to combat online misinformation.

The anti-vaxx movement’s targeting of Black Americans could signal a trend of conspiracy theorists preying on people of color. Ahead of the presidential election, right-wing disinformation campaigns targeted Latinos using Spanish-language posts on Facebook and WhatsApp groups. Progressive Asian American organizers said they saw similar misinformation campaigns on social media targeting immigrants from Vietnam and Taiwan.

Misinformation could pose significant public health challenges. The vaccine rollout, much like the distribution of COVID-19 cases, appears to favor white Americans over Black and Latino populations. A Kaiser Family Foundation analysis found Black and Hispanic people consistently received a smaller share of shots compared to their share of coronavirus cases and deaths.

The racial gap among vaccine recipients could stem from Black Americans’ historic distrust of the US health system. Some Black and Latino communities lack access to vaccine sites, and in those that do, reports of wealthy white people making appointments in underserved areas could be contributing to the race gap. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

Facebook cracks down on coronavirus misinformation. False claims that the vaccine contains microchips are banned.

Facebook Logo
Facebook logo is seen displayed on a phone screen in photo taken in Poland on November 29, 2020.

  • Facebook has banned false claims about COVID-19 vaccines in its latest attempt to stop the spread of misinformation.
  • Under the new rules, any claims about the safety, efficacy, ingredients or side effects of the vaccines which have been debunked will be removed as will any conspiracy theories.
  • The news comes as the UK became the first Western nation in the world to approve a COVID-19 vaccine made by Pfizer this week.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Facebook has banned false claims about COVID-19 vaccines in its latest attempt to stop the rapid spread of misinformation on the platform.

Under the new rules, any claims about the safety, efficacy, ingredients, or side effects of the vaccines which have been debunked will be removed, as will any conspiracy theories.

Kang-Xing Jin, Head of Health at Facebook, said in a blog statement on Thursday: “For example, we will remove false claims that COVID-19 vaccines contain microchips, or anything else that isn’t on the official vaccine ingredient list.

“This is another way that we are applying our policy to remove misinformation about the virus that could lead to imminent physical harm.”

One of the most widespread but debunked conspiracy theories is that the pandemic has been created by Microsoft founder, Bill Gates, to insert microchips into humans through a COVID-19 vaccine.

The news comes as the UK became the first Western nation in the world to approve a COVID-19 vaccine made by Pfizer this week.

In other steps, Facebook removed 12m coronavirus-related misinformation posts between March and October, including a video of Donald Trump saying children are “virtually immune,” according to AP.

Warning labels were put on 167m pieces of content, with 50m in April alone and 95% of people not clicking past to view the content resulting in the same time frame, the Independent reported.

In October, the company banned all ads discouraging vaccinations other than government advocacy ones and promoted articles debunking fake news on its information center, AP added.

The social networking site did not regulate anti-vaxx content until 2019, when it introduced its first policy of deleting misinformation, which could lead to physical harm, according to The Guardian.

Jin added that the new rules would not be enforced overnight “since it’s early and facts about COVID-19 vaccines will continue to evolve, we will regularly update the claims we remove based on guidance from public health authorities as they learn more.”

YouTube, owned by Google, and TikTok have also said they will remove false claims about COVID-19 vaccines, NPR reported.

Read the original article on Business Insider