Allegheny County Health Director Blames Misinformation for COVID Deaths

“Misinformation is literally killing people,” said Dr. Debra Bogen.
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Social media may be a great place to share pictures of your children or latest vacation, but it’s the last place you should look for accurate information about vaccines to prevent COVID 19.

Allegheny County Health Director Dr. Debra Bogen reports that 90 people have died from the virus in September, which is the highest monthly number since 91 people died in April of this year. Of these, nine were in the 25-49 age range, all unvaccinated. In the 50-64 age group, 16 people died, 13 of whom were not vaccinated.

Bogen said that misinformation, stemming largely from the internet and social media, is “literally killing people.”

“They leave behind heartbroken families and irreplaceable voids in their communities. They simply did not need to die,” she said. “In most cases, had they gotten the vaccine, they would still be alive today. It pains me that we continue to report weekly deaths from COVID-19 when we have the means to prevent nearly all of them.”

This misinformation includes dangerous conspiracy theories suggesting that vaccines impact fertility, or that ivermectin — a medication used to deworm horses — is an effective treatment for COVID-19. 

“Vaccines do not cause infertility, yet this is a lie that has been used by the anti-vaccination movement for years to scare people,” she explained. “With regards to ivermectin, not only does it not work; nationally, there has been an increase in calls to poison control and visits to emergency departments for ivermectin overdoses. In this case, misinformation has led to direct harm.”

County Executive Rich Fitzgerald also emphasized the need to trust science and ignore pseudoscience. 

“We put our faith in medical experts, not some anti-vaxxer on a TV show or on social media,” he said.

People who are “doing their own research,” Bogen added, must look beyond Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or other websites. Instead, she encouraged folks to go to more reputable sources: The New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet, the morbidity and mortality weekly reports released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or other scientific, peer-reviewed publications.

“The peer-review process holds people accountable for what they publish, which social media and the internet do not,” she said.

Bogen emphasized, once again, that vaccines are safe, effective and key to ending the pandemic.

Since March 14, 2020 there have been 123,702 cases of COVID-19 in Allegheny County residents, 8,314 hospitalizations and 2,197 deaths. 

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