Navigating Misinformation and Disinformation

COVID-19 has spread fear in our communities. Fear creates a breeding ground for misinformation, disinformation, and rumors. We are here to help you navigate this inaccurate and deceiving information circulating in communities.

We will post up-to-date content to combat the spread of harmful information about COVID-19 and the vaccine, so check back often!

Also, visit the COVID-19 Community Resource Download Center for some great ready-to-post content that fights against misinformation and disinformation.


Misinformation/Disinformation Update

Vaccine Passports ▼
  • The US government will not require proof of vaccination, but states and private businesses might in some settings.
    • The Biden administration has stated that it will not issue a federal mandate requiring proof of vaccination.
    • Some businesses including sports venues, theaters, and airlines as well as state governments are considering vaccine certification in some form.
  • Vaccine cards aren’t new. We often require proof of vaccination for school enrollment, employment, and travel.
    • Every state already has an immunization registry that records vaccinations, and digital vaccine cards have been used for the past five years to help parents share vaccination records with schools or camps.
    • Some states require the same from health care workers.
    • Anyone who has traveled to Latin America or Africa since the early 1960s has been required to show a “Yellow Card” proving immunization against yellow fever. Travel abroad will likely require some form of vaccine or testing verification for the foreseeable future.
  • Vaccine status requests from employers or businesses are not HIPAA violations.
    • HIPAA primarily applies to health care providers, medical institutions, and health insurance companies, and prevents them from disclosing patients’ medical records without the patients’ permission.
    • The law does not prevent employers or businesses from requesting vaccine certification from employees or customers.

The CDC Updates Mask Rules for the Fully Vaccinated ▼

Last week, the CDC announced new mask guidelines. Fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks or practice social distancing inside or outdoors, except in select crowded spaces like trains, airplanes, or doctor’s offices. The news has been met with a mix of excitement and confusion.

Many experts welcomed the relaxation of restrictions while others worried the guideline changes may be too much, too soon.

On the one hand, the latest guidance is only possible because the COVID-19 vaccines are very effective. Many states have seen a dramatic decrease in infections in recent weeks, particularly in the states with the highest vaccination rates.

Critics of the change point out, however, that less than half of the U.S. population is vaccinated and that vaccination rates are lower in many communities. Only 27 percent of Black Americans and 29 percent of Hispanic Americans are vaccinated, compared to 40 percent of whites and 50 percent of Asian Americans.

Here’s how you might approach the new guidelines and what they mean for members of your community.

Talking Points

    • The CDC updated the mask guidelines because the COVID-19 vaccines are working in real-world settings.
      • Two studies, one in the U.S. and one in Israel, found the Pfizer-BioTNtech and Moderna vaccines prevented COVID-19 infection and transmission in health care workers.
      • A third study suggests that the available vaccines are likely effective against the newer COVID-19 variants.
      • Because more and more people are being vaccinated, the virus is having a harder time spreading.
    • The relaxed guidelines are recommendations—not laws—which states, businesses, and individuals may choose not to follow.
      • States, cities, and territories will be able to implement mask and social distancing policies, as will private businesses.
      • Fully vaccinated individuals in communities with lower vaccination rates may choose to continue wearing masks.
    • The new guidelines can be framed as another incentive to get a vaccine.
      • Because fully vaccinated people can safely ditch their masks in many scenarios, the change could prompt more people to consider getting the vaccine.
      • Consider using a consistent message of, “Get vaccinated—or wear a mask until you do.”
    • But there is still work to do to ensure equitable access to vaccines, and the new guidelines do not mean that the pandemic has ended.
      • The loosening of guidelines should not undermine the fact that we are still faced with a continued health emergency.
      • Many people across the country remain unvaccinated because they don’t have access to the internet, work more than one job, don’t speak English, experience homelessness, live in rural areas, or have chronic health conditions.
      • Health care professionals, people who are at high risk, or travelers may still need to wear masks. And CDC guidelines may change in the future as new information becomes available.

Youth Vaccine Questions, University Vaccine Mandates, Fox News ▼
  • BMJ Op-Ed may increase hesitancy to vaccinate kids against COVID-19. Last week, an op-ed was published on BMJ which argued that COVID-19 vaccines for children should not receive emergency-use authorization on the basis that the likelihood for severe outcomes associated with infection is low for children. The op-ed has created a stir, receiving support from some as well as strong criticism, reflected in responses to BMJ’s tweet about the piece. Health professionals are concerned that BMJ gave a platform to create doubt in vaccines from authors who do not actually provide care for children. Critics of the article point out that the risk-benefit argument made in the op-ed was lacking the long-term risks for children, along with critical citations for the opinions offered.
    There has been an ongoing debate about the degree of harm that COVID-19 causes children and to what extent children are transmitting the disease. However, children have died from and are suffering long-term effects of COVID-19 infection. Children under 10 have also been shown to transmit the virus. Since the pandemic began, children represented 14% of cumulative cases, a number that rose to 24% of new cases for the first week of May 2021. Despite the public discourse over-vaccinating children, the FDA authorized the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 12 to15 on May 10.
  • New efforts to reverse COVID vaccine mandates at universities. The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) has written an open letter calling on U.S. colleges and universities to walk back on COVID-19 vaccination mandates for in-person learning. Although the AAPS sounds like a legitimate organization for physicians, it is more recognized as a lobbying group that engages in the regular promotion of anti-vaccine views. The letter, which has been amplified by Children’s Health Defense, outlines 15 reasons that vaccine mandates should be reconsidered, which include several debunked items like the misinformed assertion that young adults are healthy and at low risk of getting seriously ill and unconfirmed data from VAERS. Given the seeming legitimacy of the organization, if the open letter spreads, it may get more people in support of repealing vaccine mandates at colleges and universities.
  • Fox News personality spreads misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines. On his popular primetime talk show, Tucker Carlson has spent many months questioning the safety of COVID-19 vaccines. Last week, Carlson continued the trend by asking a question about how many people have been killed by the vaccine and implied that people who died after getting vaccinated died from the vaccine. The host was promptly blasted on social media after his statements. However, the comments tie into data from an NPR/Marist poll which found that Republican men and residents of rural areas were the least likely to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Carlson’s comments may be pandering to his audience’s vaccine hesitancy while also amplifying the spread of misinformation. According to CDC, of the 259 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines that have been administered in the U.S. as of May 10, VAERS has received 4,434 reports of death (0.0017%); available clinical information including autopsy and medical records have not established a causal link between death and COVID-19 vaccination.

The Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Decision ▼

After extensive study, experts believe the benefits of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine outweigh the risks. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is still recommended for all adults because it is highly effective in preventing infection, hospitalization, and death. This single-dose vaccine is also easier to store and transport, making it an important tool in the U.S. pandemic response.

Scientists have confirmed that instances of blood clots from the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are extremely rare. Despite greater monitoring and increased awareness of a potential problem, scientists did not find a large number of this type of blood clots, also known as Thrombosis with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome (TTS). In the U.S., almost 8 million Johnson & Johnson vaccines were administered through April 21, with 15 confirmed cases of TTS.

Questioning the Johnson & Johnson Vaccine ▼
  1. The FDA and CDC did the right thing by pausing Johnson & Johnson vaccinations until we know more. By making this decision, the FDA is showing its commitment to safety and transparency. This is how the process is supposed to work, and why we can trust it.
  2. What we know now is that reports of blood clots are very rare. Almost seven million people have received the Johnson and Johnson vaccine and there have been fewer than 10 reported cases.
  3. More than 100 million Americans have been vaccinated safely, most with Pfizer and Moderna doses.
  4. People have genuine concerns about the vaccines they receive — and they deserve answers.
  5. Getting a vaccine is still the best tool you can use to protect yourself and your loved ones.

COVID-19 Vaccine Trials in Children & Safety Concerns ▼

Moderna and Pfizer recently announced that they will begin vaccination trials with children in the U.S. and Canada. This has sparked outrage among various well-known antivaccination groups, which claim that the COVID-19 vaccines are experimental and that pediatric trials are inherently unsafe. One popular tweet claimed unaccompanied minor migrants would be included in vaccine trials. Upcoming pediatric trials will continue to follow rigorous safety measures and will be watched closely by regulatory bodies. Any children enrolled in these trials will require parental consent and participation to participate.

Learn More: How the COVID-19 Vaccine Trials in Children Are Going To Work, an Interview with Dr. Yvonne Maldonado of Stanford, NPR: All Things Considered, 3/19/2021



Copyright disclosure

The resources on the following page are free to download and share. We encourage the use of our resources for infection prevention education, provided that the information is not modified. Please attribute these resources to Northern Virginia Family Services (NVFS) and include the links to additional resources (if applicable).

For further information or questions reach out to Jenée Padmore.