On 17th January 2023, the industry regulator, the Bar Standards Board decided to hand down an order imposing a ban on a barrister preventing him from continuing to practise after evidence emerged
US: Vaccine misinformation poised to spike as Covid shots for kids roll out
What just happened?
Some Republican lawmakers declined to say if they were making the vaccine and opposed Biden's attempts to vaccinate more people. The spread of disinformation prompted Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, one of the most formidable political opponents of the Biden administration, to plan a vaccination ad funded by his re-election campaign in his home state of Kentucky, said the 79-year-old MP. (1)
What does this mean?
Among the many reasons COVID-19 vaccination rates increased in the United States earlier than experts had hoped - and instead of rising in the summer months, they began to decline - are myths that have been ingrained among the unvaccinated and established themselves as causes rather than to get shot. The vaccine will render women sterile; vaccines are too new; there is a microchip in the frames; the vaccine itself will infect me with COVID; I have immunity because I have had COVID; Revolution! (2)
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that immunocompromised people can get their fourth COVID vaccine six months after the third dose. People with weakened immune systems sometimes need three doses of mRNA vaccine to build up immunity against the COVID virus. The first dose provides basic protection, but experts say the second dose is critical to strengthening and expanding immunity. People with weakened immune systems that produce fewer antibodies in response to vaccines may still be at risk from COVID-19 complications. [Sources: 4, 15] Subsequently, the experts say it is important for young people to be vaccinated against COVID-19 so that they do not get sick, miss workdays, pay high medical bills and possibly pass on the virus to other vulnerable people. However, according to a recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, fluctuations in the Covid vaccine among parents are already high. 27% of parents plan to vaccinate their children aged 5 to 11 "immediately". (3)
How does this impact the legal sector?
Tackling misinformation about Covid-19 and building public confidence in vaccines is an urgent national security issue, especially after a safe and effective Covid-19 vaccine becomes available. Not only is vaccine misinformation false, it can also contribute to doubt about the vaccine among the wider public, which will in turn hinder national and global public health efforts. (4)
It is becoming increasingly apparent that malevolent political elements have also propagated misinformation about Covid-19 vaccines in order to stoke discord and exacerbate political divisions in US society. Since the start of the pandemic, misinformation has infiltrated traditional nursing groups and prompted professional groups like the American Nursing Association to announce support for the vaccine and warn of online disinformation that undermines public confidence. (5)
Recent research has demonstrated that exposure to misinformation has led to a sharp decline in vaccine intentions in the United States and the United Kingdom, however, the anti-vaccination movement is currently on the rise spreading misinformation online about vaccine safety and causing an alarming decline in vaccine vaccination rates worldwide. For example, anti-vaccination organizations “Protect Children’s Health” led by activist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., have a long history of disinformation (most recently through their new publication The Protector ). (6)
Countermeasures have been put in place to deal with misinformation. For instances, the TikTok brand has tried to limit the spread of misinformation, but the app has also become a primary outlet for people trying to reject warrants and spread doubts about vaccine safety. Despite numerous policy updates and other measures to remove anti-vaccine content on both platforms, the mainstream media have stepped up their efforts to prevent the spread of vaccine misinformation. Consequently, the contingencies to defend against misinformation will introduce work for law firms who will work closely with their clients, providing key insights and updates on policy changes taking place regarding the covid vaccinations and how their client can promote this information internally and to the public.
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3https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/tech-news/vaccine-misinformation-poised-spike-covid-shots-kids-roll-rcna4360, https://time.com/6110444/covid-19-vaccine-kids-parents-hesitant/ and https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/hsph-in-the-news/the-latest-on-the-coronavirus/
4https://blog.petrieflom.law.harvard.edu/2021/01/20/covid-19-vaccine-misinformation-anti-vaccine-movement/, https://www.natlawreview.com/article/bioethics-pandemic-misinformation-and-mandates and https://www.csis.org/analysis/risks-misinformation-and-vaccine-hesitancy-within-covid-19-crisis
5https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/social-media/vaccine-mandates-spread-protests-follow-spurred-nurses-rcna1654, https://www.csis.org/analysis/risks-misinformation-and-vaccine-hesitancy-within-covid-19-crisis and https://www.shrm.org/resourcesandtools/hr-topics/people-managers/pages/covid-vaccine-misinformation-.aspx
6https://blog.petrieflom.law.harvard.edu/2021/01/20/covid-19-vaccine-misinformation-anti-vaccine-movement/, https://www.natlawreview.com/article/bioethics-pandemic-misinformation-and-mandates and https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0247642
7https://blog.petrieflom.law.harvard.edu/2021/01/20/covid-19-vaccine-misinformation-anti-vaccine-movement/, https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/social-media/vaccine-mandates-spread-protests-follow-spurred-nurses-rcna1654 and https://www.csis.org/analysis/risks-misinformation-and-vaccine-hesitancy-within-covid-19-crisis.