Communication of COVID-19 Misinformation on Social Media by Physicians in the US is a study published by the JAMA Open Network. The authors looked at the social media posts of 52 physicians practicing in 28 different specialties. The small sample size is enough to stop reading. They defined COVID-19 misinformation as assertions unsupported by or contradicting US 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. In other words, a doctor who disagreed with the line propagated by the CDC and its legionaries was guilty of spreading misinformation. No matter that the CDC was not constant in its messaging or that a physician analyzing the available data might reach a different conclusion, if you were not in the approved stream, you were a purveyor of misinformation according to Sule, et al.
The sins of misinformation included the following: (1) vaccines were unsafe and/or ineffective, (2) masks and/or social distancing did not decrease risk for contracting COVID-19, (3) medications for prevention or treatment were held effective despite not having completed clinical trials or having been FDA approved, and (4) other (eg, conspiracy theories). Additional evidence of bad behavior was the belief that a laboratory leak rather than a zoonotic origin of the virus was the cause of the pandemic. That CDC approved treatments at one time or another were were in the same untested basket is not considered by the authors.
Notice that everything lumped into the category of misinformation is within the realm of plausibility. The vaccine’s effectiveness is still controversial as is it overall safety. There have been several studies in reputable journals questioning the effectiveness of masks. Social distancing seems to have been of limited effectiveness. Drugs like hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin do not appear to be effective against COVID, yet they are safe and their effectiveness was not known nor without plausibility when their use was first advocated. The invective they engendered when their use was first employed was beyond reason. In fact, almost everything that the authors of this study hold authoritative was guilty of bad performance during the pandemic.
The study which can be downloaded below reads like it was first rejected by the Babylon Bee prior to making its way to the JAMA Network. It seems part of the sadly common practice of calling those with whom one disagrees bad names rather that debating the issues. In the case of COVID many of these issues remain unresolved. How safe and effective are the vaccines against it? A lab leak origin seems far more likely than spread from a wet market. I’m not sure why his paper was written or what point it attempts to make. It adds nothing to the corpus of knowledge about the recent infection. Surely doctors have a right to divergent opinions. If these are in error vigorous debate will prove them so. When a new disease bursts on the scene rigid orthodoxy based on no firm evidence as must be the case in a new disease is not the way to enlightenment.