Credit: (source: northwell.edu)

Last Updated on February 18, 2022 by BVN

Breanna Reeves | 

On February 14 Assemblymember Evan Low (D-Campbell) introduced Assembly Bill 2098, a bill that would consider the dissemination or promotion of misinformation or disinformation regarding COVID-19 by physicians as being unprofessional conduct. 

This bill aims to stop the spread of false information regarding COVID-19 by penalizing those in the medical profession for providing false or inaccurate information. Under this law, the Medical Board of California and the Osteopathic Medical Board of California will be authorized to take action against licensees.

“The spread of misinformation and disinformation about COVID-19 and vaccinations continues to jeopardize public health,” said Low in a tweet. “We introduced Assembly Bill 2098 to declare misinformation and disinformation of Covid-19 to the public as unprofessional conduct.”

Assemblymember Low introduced a bill that would allow the Medical Board of California to consider the spread of Covid-19 related misinformation by physicians to be considered unprofessional misconduct (Image via Twitter).

Vaccine hesitancy, in part, has been fueled by COVID-19 misinformation that has spread regarding the safety and efficacy of vaccines and COVID-19 deaths. For some communities, vaccine hesitancy is the result of longstanding mistrust of health professionals.

Another bill, Senate Bill 1018, introduced this week by Senator Richard Pan aims to tackle the spread of information through social media by requiring online platforms like Facebook to publicly reveal how their algorithms work and how user content is promoted. 

Jose Arballo Jr., Senior Public Information Specialist for Riverside University Health System-Public Health said in an email that misinformation has been one of the biggest challenges the county has faced during the pandemic as they attempted to disseminate COVID-19-related information.

A study from August 2021 surveying vaccine acceptance among racial/ ethnic groups found that Black participants were less likely to want the COVID-19 vaccine at all compared to White people and Hispanic people. Black respondents also had a higher mistrust of the vaccine compared to other racial/ ethinc groups. According to the study, Blacks were 38.7% less likely than White people (55.1%) to believe that the vaccine would be effective. 

However the study noted, “Encouragingly, many Black and Hispanic respondents reported that COVID-19 vaccine endorsements from same-race medical professionals would increase their willingness to receive it.”

Health departments across the U.S. have employed community advocates and community groups to help with vaccine education and dissemination in order to increase rates in communities with low vaccination rates, namely Black and Hispanic communities.

In Riverside County, 53.5% of the African American eligible population is vaccinated and 49.9% of the Latinx eligible population is vaccinated. The county has developed an equity team that partners with “trusted community messengers” like barber shops, community organizations and churches to get communities vaccinated.

Vaccination rates among Black and Hispanic communities in San Bernardino County are also low. The county reports that 30.9% of the Black eligible population is fully vaccinated, 43.5% of the Hispanic or Latino population is fully vaccinated and just 18.5% of the American Indian population is fully vaccinated.

As California relaxes  COVID-19 restrictions, such as vaccinated persons no longer being required to wear masks indoors or no vaccine requirement to attend large outdoor “megaevents” like the Coachella music festival in Indio, the state boasts a decrease in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. According to the California Department of Health, 73.9% of the eligible population is fully vaccinated.

Breanna Reeves

Breanna Reeves is a reporter in Riverside, California, and uses data-driven reporting to cover issues that affect the lives of Black Californians. Breanna joins Black Voice News as a Report for America Corps member. Previously, Breanna reported on activism and social inequality in San Francisco and Los Angeles, her hometown. Breanna graduated from San Francisco State University with a bachelor’s degree in Print & Online Journalism. She received her master’s degree in Politics and Communication from the London School of Economics. Contact Breanna with tips, comments or concerns at breanna@voicemediaventures.com or via twitter @_breereeves.