September 14, 2021
Area(s) of Interest: Public Health Professional Development & Education
The Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) recently released a statement in response to a dramatic increase in the dissemination of COVID-19 vaccine misinformation and disinformation by physicians and other health care professionals on social media platforms, online and in the media. According to the statement, providing misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine contradicts physicians’ ethical and professional responsibilities, and therefore may subject a physician to disciplinary actions, including suspension or revocation of their medical license.
“Physicians who generate and spread COVID-19 vaccine misinformation or disinformation are risking disciplinary action by state medical boards, including the suspension or revocation of their medical license. Due to their specialized knowledge and training, licensed physicians possess a high degree of public trust and therefore have a powerful platform in society, whether they recognize it or not,” the statement said. “They also have an ethical and professional responsibility to practice medicine in the best interests of their patients and must share information that is factual, scientifically grounded and consensus-driven for the betterment of public health. Spreading inaccurate COVID-19 vaccine information contradicts that responsibility, threatens to further erode public trust in the medical profession and puts all patients at risk.”
The American Board of Family Medicine (ABFM), the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM), and the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP) also issued a joint statement in support FSMB’s position.
“We also want all physicians certified by our Boards to know that such unethical or unprofessional conduct may prompt their respective Board to take action that could put their certification at risk. Expertise matters, and board-certified physicians have demonstrated that they have stayed current in their field. Spreading misinformation or falsehoods to the public during a time of a public health emergency goes against everything our Boards and our community of board-certified physicians stand for,” said Warren Newton, M.D., President and CEO of the American Board of Family Medicine, Richard J. Baron, M.D., President and CEO of the American Board of Internal Medicine, and David G. Nichols, M.D., President and CEO of the American Board of Pediatrics, in the joint statement.
“The evidence that we have safe, effective and widely available vaccines against COVID-19 is overwhelming. We are particularly concerned about physicians who use their authority to denigrate vaccination at a time when vaccines continue to demonstrate excellent effectiveness against severe illness, hospitalization and death. We all look to board-certified physicians to provide outstanding care and guidance; providing misinformation about a lethal disease is unethical, unprofessional and dangerous. In times of medical emergency, the community of expert physicians committed to science and evidence collectively shares a responsibility for giving the public the most accurate and timely health information available, so they can make decisions that work best for themselves and their families.”