Reprinted with permission from AlterNet
Anti-vaxxers have taken conspiracy theories to a new level with their latest attempt to convince unvaccinated COVID patients to leave hospital intensive care units.
According to NBC News, conspiracy theorists are circulating serious allegations about doctors treating COVID patients. The publication reports that they claim doctors are "preventing unvaccinated patients from receiving miracle cures or are even killing them on purpose."
Ivermectin enthusiasts and anti-vaxxers have also been spreading misinformation in Facebook groups telling COVID positive individuals to "stay away from hospitals and instead try increasingly dangerous at-home treatments."
NBC notes that the disturbing claims underscore "the escalation in mistrust" of the scientific community and medical professionals. The misinformation epidemic has grown worse over the last several months with the rise of the rapidly spreading Delta variant of COVID-19. Doctors and nurses in hospital systems across the country have also expressed concern about the rise in misinformation amid the resurgence of COVID.
Wes Ely, an ICU doctor and professor Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, revealed how their intensive care has changed over the last month with the rise in severe cases among the unvaccinated.
"We were down to four Covid patients two months ago. In this surge, we've had 40 to 50 patients with Covid on four different ICU services, 97 percent of them unvaccinated," said Ely. "We were making headway, and now we're just losing really, really badly. There's something that's happening on the internet, and it's dramatically increasing steam."
Harvard Medical School physician Aditi Nerurkar also expressed deep concern about what she describes as "vigilante medicine": a decision "wherein patients are deferring potentially lifesaving care from doctors to try unproven cures pushed on Facebook."
"It's vigilante medicine: medicine being practiced by laypeople who are reading groups created by other laypeople in echo chambers and silos that, likely, someone in the anti-vax movement is profiting from," she said.
Although social media has become the central hub for misinformation, Facebook insists it is fighting back against the spread of false information.
"We remove content that attempts to buy, sell, or donate for Ivermectin," a Facebook spokesperson confirmed in an emailed statement. "We also enforce against any account or group that violates our COVID-19 and vaccine policies, including claims that Ivermectin is a guaranteed cure or guaranteed prevention, and we don't allow ads promoting Ivermectin as a treatment for COVID-19."