While osteopathic physicians continue to battle COVID-19 and the more contagious Delta variant, the AOA is stepping up its response to misinformation about the virus, vaccine safety and vaccine effectiveness.
Several recent articles by the New York Times and Washington Post, in addition to news reports from CNN, NPR and Fox News among others, revealed that Joseph Mercola, DO, is one of the nation’s top spreaders of misinformation about the virus and the vaccine – mostly on social media. The AOA responded with a social media campaign condemning Dr. Mercola’s dissemination of false information and the resulting potential damage to patients. On Twitter, the AOA’s response garnered nearly 50,000 impressions and 166 engagements.
Not representing the AOA
A Florida news station interviewed AOA President Joseph A. Giaimo, DO, in late July about Dr. Mercola and his stance. Dr. Giaimo reinforced that Dr. Mercola does not represent osteopathic physicians across the United States and certainly doesn’t represent the AOA. The AOA shared that video on social media and received nearly 8,000 impressions.
“The many negative rumors you may hear about the COVID vaccine are not backed by science,” Dr. Giaimo said in the report. “Meanwhile, real-world data and the experiences of millions of Americans prove it is safe and effective. I fully support this vaccine and so do thousands of my fellow DOs.”
Dr. Giaimo’s comments came one day after the AOA and other health organizations released a joint statement in support of COVID vaccine mandates for workers in health care.
“Due to the recent COVID-19 surge and the availability of safe and effective vaccines, our health care organizations and societies advocate that all health care and long-term care employers require their workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine,” the statement read. “This is the logical fulfillment of the ethical commitment of all health care workers to put patients as well as residents of long-term care facilities first and take all steps necessary to ensure their health and well-being.”
Together in the truth
The AOA and more than 60 other health care organizations signed onto the statement.
Less than a week after the AOA released that statement, MedPage Today interviewed the Federation of State Medical Boards CEO Hank Chaudry, DO, and AOA CEO Kevin Klauer, DO, EJD, about the professional ramifications of spreading false information. In an article with the headline, “Spreading False Vax Info Might Cost You Your Medical License,” the writer asked Dr. Klauer about the possibility that physicians could be reprimanded by their state licensing board.
“They are a regulatory body with physician licensure,” Dr. Klauer said. “So I think they are empowered to set the boundaries of professional conduct.”
“The vaccines have proven to be safe and effective and are saving thousands of lives,” Dr. Klauer added. “Combine that with the Delta variant’s emergence, and dissuading people from getting a vaccine that the medical community embraces is harmful.”
That MedPage article was one of the AOA’s most shared on social media in August, with 2,170 engagements.
Responding to false testimony
The AOA’s stance against Dr. Mercola followed the testimony of Sherri Tenpenny, DO, at the Ohio House of Representatives on June 8. Dr. Tenpenny’s testimony included material misinformation and a lack of supporting evidence or a scientific foundation. In response, the AOA issued a statement that included the following:
“We support collegial debate based on professional differences of opinion on the appraisal of scientific literature. However, creating fear from non-scientific opinion without evidence is irresponsible, unconscionable, and undermines the public trust in the receipt of safe and efficacious medical care. The AOA urges all Americans to get the COVID 19 vaccine. This vaccine is a scientific achievement that has saved countless lives. We strongly support the evidence affirming the safety of vaccine technology and reject unsubstantiated claims to the contrary.”