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Photo illustration: Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Facebook says it will take tougher action during the pandemic against claims that vaccines, including the COVID-19 vaccination, are not effective or safe.

Why it matters: It's a partial reversal from Facebook's previous position on vaccine misinformation. In September, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the company wouldn't target anti-vaccination posts the same way it has aggressively cracked down on COVID misinformation.

Details: Facebook is doing four things to crack down on misinformation about COVID-19 and vaccinations in general, following consultation with the World Health Organization:

  1. Updating misinformation policies to bar the posting of debunked claims about the vaccines, like the idea that vaccines are not effective or cause autism. Groups, pages and accounts on Facebook and Instagram that repeatedly share these debunked claims may be removed altogether, the company said.
  2. Adding directions on how and where to get vaccinated to its COVID-19 information center, tapping information provided by users' local health officials.
  3. Giving $120 million in ad credits to help health agencies, NGOs and UN agencies reach billions of people with information about the COVID-19 vaccine and preventive health.
  4. Making it harder to find unchecked vaccine misinformation on its platforms by returning validated vaccine info when users search for terms related to debunked claims.

The big picture: The actions follow a similar playbook that the tech giant has used to squash misinformation around highly sensitive events, including the election.

  • Facebook created a voter information center ahead of the 2020 election that provided verified information about voting to users and directed people on how to register to vote and where their local polling places were.

Go deeper

Feb 8, 2021 - Health

The coronavirus vaccines have shattered expectations

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

No matter how hard you squint, or what angle you look at it from, the coronavirus vaccines are a triumph. They are saving lives today; they will help end this pandemic eventually; and they will pay scientific dividends for generations.

The big picture: The pandemic isn’t over. There are still big threats ahead of us and big problems to solve. But for all the things that have gone wrong over the past year, the vaccines themselves have shattered even the most ambitious expectations.

Feb 8, 2021 - Health

South Africa vaccine pause shows how COVID variants could derail pandemic progress

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Everything seems to be on the right track with the coronavirus in the U.S., finally. Vaccinations are going up and cases are going down. But variants could mess it all up.

Driving the news: South Africa hit the brakes yesterday on a planned rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine, after a clinical trial appeared to suggest that the shot didn't work against the South African variant — arguably the scariest of the variants.

Kendall Baker, author of Sports
Feb 8, 2021 - Sports

Super Bowl parties, post-game celebrations risk COVID spike

Data: The COVID Tracking Project; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Many of America's COVID-19 spikes came on the heels of holidays, when friends and families gathered to celebrate. Could Super Bowl LV lead to another spike?