Local health board declares public health crisis over vaccine misinformation
The Jefferson County Board of Health voted last week to declare a public health crisis over pandemic-related misinformation.
The board’s resolution was inspired by a recent statement from U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, where he urged “all Americans to help slow the spread of health misinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.”
“Health misinformation is a serious threat to public health,” Dr. Murthy’s statement reads. “It can cause confusion, sow mistrust, harm people’s health, and undermine public health efforts. Limiting the spread of health misinformation is a moral and civic imperative that will require a whole-of-society effort.”
In Jefferson County, the Board of Health warns of a “healthcare system at the breaking point,” driven by staff shortages, overwhelmed emergency facilities, and increased COVID-related hospitalizations.
“Our public health services are stretched to the point where we can barely perform the best-practice COVID-19 case and contact tracing and follow-up,” the board’s resolution lays out.
The resolution goes on to praise Jefferson and Clallam County Health Officer Dr. Allison Berry for a recently-implemented order requiring bars and restaurants to have customers provide proof of vaccination as a condition for entry.
The board further pointed to how Dr. Berry has subsequently been a victim of “intimidation and threats of violence” from those opposed to her health order, all while misinformation surrounding the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine has continued to spread.
“There are some people in our community who are vaccine hesitant for a variety of reasons, most of which are fed by misinformation campaigns,” the resolution notes.