Health workers' licenses at risk if they spread COVID-19 vaccine misinformation

Major medical certifiying bodies announced in a joint statement that any certified physicians may lose their license if they spread misleading information about the COVID-19 vaccines. 

“Spreading misinformation or falsehoods to the public during a time of a public health emergency goes against everything our Boards and our community of board-certified physicians stand for,” according to a statement from the American Board of Family Medicine, the American Board of Internal Medicine and the American Board of Pediatrics.

The organizations noted that the evidence that vaccines are safe and effective is “overwhelming." The boards are “particularly concerned about physicians who use their authority to denigrate vaccination at a time when vaccines continue to demonstrate excellent effectiveness against severe illness, hospitalization and death.”  

Their joint statement supports that of the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB), which made a similar announcement first this past July. According to that statement, it was published in response to a “dramatic increase” in the spread of harmful information about COVID-19 vaccines by healthcare workers online and in the press. 

RELATED: There's a lot of misinformation about COVID-19 out there. Here are doctors' ideas on how to 'fight back' 

The FSMB's statement noted that health workers possess a lot of the public’s trust, and have “an ethical and professional responsibility to practice medicine in the best interests of their patients.” They must not disseminate information that is not factual or evidence-based, it went on. “Spreading inaccurate COVID-19 vaccine information contradicts that responsibility, threatens to further erode public trust in the medical profession and puts all patients at risk,” the statement concluded.  

Harmful and at times life-threatening information has become so abundant that the term infodemic has now been used to describe the past year even by the World Health Organization. Members of Congress continue to press technology companies like Facebook on their practices to curb the steady flow of false information. 

Doctors on the industry networking site Doximity have reported that it is rife with anti-vaccine comments, conspiracies and disinformation. Last month, a MedPage investigation found that of 20 physicians who have spread false information about COVID-19, none had yet been disciplined.