Authored by Zachary Stieber via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),
A new study claiming some doctors offered "COVID-19 misinformation" is full of false and misleading information, critics say.
Dr. Sarah Goff and colleagues in their study claimed that the COVID-19 vaccines are completely safe, that only nine deaths have been confirmed as being caused by the vaccines, and that there are no negative consequences to wearing masks.
In some instances, the authors went against their own definition of misinformation. They defined misinformation as information that went against guidelines issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or "unsubstantiated claims."
The CDC in 2021 acknowledged severe allergic shock as a COVID-19 vaccine side effect. The agency also said that year that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines likely caused heart inflammation and that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine caused blood clotting.
The study was published by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Network Open and covered January 2021 to December 2022.
Dr. Goff, an associate professor of health promotion and policy at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and other researchers from the university, also labeled as misinformation saying post-infection immunity, or natural immunity, was better than vaccine-bestowed immunity.
A statement from January 2022 from Dr. Marty Makary, a surgeon at Johns Hopkins University, saying "natural imm[unity] is more effective than vax [immunity]" was included as an example of purported misinformation.
According to the CDC, natural immunity provided better protection than the vaccines during the Delta era. Another CDC study, which came after the time period the study covered, found the same for the Omicron era.
"JAMA, CDC, & the government’s Truth™️ agencies spread a lot of misinformation during the pandemic," Dr. Makary said in a social media post. "But when they use the term it’s to justify censoring different scientific opinions—even after they are later supported by solid research."
Dr. Goff and JAMA did not respond to requests for comment.
The researchers said that their study found "widespread, inaccurate, and potentially harmful assertions made by physicians across the country," adding that "Further research is needed to assess the extent of the potential harms associated with physician propagation of misinformation, the motivations for these behaviors, and potential legal and professional recourse to improve accountability for misinformation propagation."
But Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, a professor of health policy at Stanford University, said the study itself promoted misinformation and will contribute to the falling trust in public health.
"The U.S. public health establishment failed to safeguard the health and well-being of the American public during the pandemic. A primary reason for this is that the establishment embraced many policies and ideas unsupported by scientific evidence, such as the efficacy of toddler masking or the inefficacy of immune protection after COVID recovery. They pushed vaccine mandates on the false premise that the COVID vaccine could stop COVID," Dr. Bhattacharya, who was not involved in the research, told The Epoch Times via email.
"For JAMA to publish a piece on misinformation—citing true facts as if they were misinformation—without mentioning the much more consequential misinformation that public health and medical authorities pushed further, diminishes public trust in public health and medicine," he added.
Dr. Goff and the other authors reviewed statements made on social media and during interviews and analyzed them to see if they were "unsupported by or contradicting" CDC guidance or "contradicting the existing state of scientific evidence for any topics not covered by the CDC."
Themes of purported misinformation, the authors claimed, included statements that the COVID-19 vaccines were ineffective at preventing the spread of COVID-19 and that the vaccines were harmful.
The clinical trials for the vaccines did not test efficacy against transmission and vaccinated people almost immediately began becoming infected despite being vaccinated, records show. Studies have found that vaccinated people have similar viral loads to unvaccinated people.
Side effects, meanwhile, have been acknowledged by the CDC and other agencies starting in late 2020 with anaphylaxis, or severe allergic shock. Other known or suspected side effects include heart inflammation, Guillain-Barre syndrome, and blood clotting.
While dismissing vaccine risks, the authors also said that doctors distributed misinformation by contradicting the CDC's position that COVID-19 vaccines have only been confirmed as causing or contributing to nine deaths. But death certificates and other evidence undercut the CDC's position, and authorities in other countries have confirmed additional deaths.
The authors also said that alleging COVID-19 originated in a laboratory in China, where the first COVID-19 cases were detected, "contradicted scientific evidence at the time" and was thus misinformation. But their two citations were from 2023, after the study was completed. Experts remain divided on the COVID-19 origins, and many support the theory it came from the lab.
They also took issue with Dr. Bhattacharya's December 2022 statement that "we found that government actors across a dozen federal agencies were in contact with Twitter, with social media telling the social media companies what to censor and in many cases who to censor regarding COVID information."
Court documents from a case in which the doctor was involved support his statement. A federal judge overseeing the case later said the plaintiffs “have produced evidence of a massive effort by Defendants, from the White House to federal agencies, to suppress speech based on its content.”