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Surgeon General Vivek Murthy speaking during a press briefing on Thursday at the White House. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy called on social media companies Thursday to curb misinformation related to the coronavirus pandemic and vaccines in his first health advisory since being confirmed to the position.

Why it matters: Murthy said vaccine misinformation is a factor in the country's slowing vaccination rates. More than 40% of American adults are not fully vaccinated against the virus, and new cases have slightly increased in part because of the rise of the Delta variant.

  • Surgeon general health advisories are typically issued for physical products people consume deemed urgent public health threats, though Murthy said health misinformation now falls under that category.
  • Coronavirus hospitalizations and deaths remain far lower than their peaks this January.

What they're saying: "Health misinformation is false, inaccurate or misleading information about health according to the best evidence at the time," Murthy said. "Misinformation takes away our freedom to make informed decisions about our health and the health of our loved ones."

  • "During the COVID-19 pandemic, health misinformation has led people to resist wearing masks in high-risk settings. It's led them to turndown proven treatments and to choose not to get vaccinated. This has led to avoidable illness and death," he added.
  • "Now, health misinformation didn't start with COVID-19. What's different now though is the speed and scale at which misinformation is spreading."
  • "Modern technology companies have enabled misinformation to poison our information environment with little accountability to their users."

The big picture: The surgeon general said mechanisms that platforms use to keep people scrolling — including likes, share buttons and algorithms that tailor content for specific users — have also allowed misinformation to proliferate.

  • Murthy called for an "all of society" approach to tackling misinformation, recommending community leaders to promote factual information and educators to improve health literacy.
  • He said the Biden administration expects social media platforms to operate with more transparency and accountability and to step up efforts to monitor for false information.

Go deeper: Coalition calls on Biden to form disinformation task force

Go deeper

Oct 22, 2021 - Health

CDC director: U.S. may change definition of "fully vaccinated" as boosters roll out

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky. Photo: Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images

Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Friday the U.S. "may need to update" its definition for what it means to have full vaccination against COVID.

The big picture: The CDC and the FDA have officially approved boosters with every authorized vaccine in the U.S. for people who meet specific requirements. Walensky explained that since not everyone is eligible for a booster, the definition has not been changed "yet."

Oct 22, 2021 - Health

Illinois mandates daycare workers to receive COVID vaccine or weekly testing

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker speaks during a round table discussion with high school students in October 2018. Photo: Joshua Lott/Getty Images

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) announced Friday that all daycare workers in the state will be required to receive the COVID-19 vaccine or or submit to weekly testing.

Driving the news: Pritzker said he was issuing the requirement to protect "babies, toddlers, and young children not yet eligible for the vaccine."

Starbucks drops worker vaccine mandate after SCOTUS ruling

Photo: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Starbucks announced in a memo to employees Tuesday that it has dropped plans to implement a vaccine mandate for all U.S. workers, AP reported on Wednesday.

Why it matters: The company's decision comes in response to the Supreme Court's ruling last week to block the Biden administration's COVID-19 vaccine-or-test requirement for large employers.

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