Health expert worries COVID misinformation is leading to mistrust, more illnesses

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Wednesday, December 14, 2022
Expert worries health misinformation is leading to more illnesses
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Dr. Chin-Hong worries misinformation has led to mistrust from patients -- that is especially true with COVID-19 vaccines and face masks.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- Spreading faster than gossip in a high school hallway, health rumors have been circulating in the community almost as much as COVID, flu and RSV cases.

Nearly three years into the pandemic, rumors and false information continue to keep people from doing the one thing everyone can do to protect themselves: get vaccinated.

Doctors worry about the damage it is doing - not just for COVID, but for other diseases as well.

MORE: Covid-19 vaccine myths: These reasons for not getting a shot don't hold up. In fact, they'll set the US back

"Why do these health rumors get to you as a doctor and medical professional?" ABC7 News Reporter Dustin Dorsey asked.

"It gets to me because I really want to keep people in the population healthy, meaning I don't want them to get seriously ill," UCSF infectious diseases specialist Dr. Peter Chin-Hong said.

Dr. Chin-Hong worries misinformation has led to mistrust - patients who won't see or won't listen to their doctors.

That's especially true with vaccines.

VIDEO: Here's what pregnant mothers should know about COVID-19 vaccination

"Vaccines do keep people away from the hospital," Dr. Chin-Hong said. "They do keep people from dying. In that way, it's an unqualified success. I feel so fortunate to be in this time where we were able to save all those lives."

A new study by the Commonweath Fund says there has been 3.2 million lives saved thanks to COVID-19 vaccines, actually.

Santa Clara County has shown this and other COVID measures kept their death average lower than the state's and country's.

Still, Dr. Chin-Hong has heard some say masking and other COVID protections have hurt our immune systems and is causing the surge in flu and RSV we're seeing this year.

MORE: Here's how San Francisco students are fighting back against vaccine misinformation

"There's no evidence that not being exposed to viruses has somehow decimated your immune system and it's more sluggish," Dr. Chin-Hong said. "In fact, the reason we're seeing a lot of viruses now is because we haven't been exposed to it, our immune system hasn't seen it as a population."

Viruses like Polio and Measles - which Dr. Chin-Hong says have returned in part due to vaccine rumors.

This once again highlighting these dangers.

"It's really, really difficult to take care of people who haven't really taken advantage of all the tools that we have," Dr. Chin-Hong said. "Particularly because of misinformation or disinformation."

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