In this episode, we set out to explore whether false narratives about the pandemic and the COVID-19 vaccines have overshadowed science or whether science has managed to hold its own, particularly in light of the politicization of the pandemic.
Politics has certainly influenced who has chosen to get vaccinated. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, “there continue to be differences in COVID-19 vaccination rates along partisan lines, a gap that has grown over time.” The Kaiser study showed that almost 53 percent of people who live in counties that voted for Biden were fully vaccinated compared to nearly 40 percent of people in counties that went to Trump.
To better understand why people continue to reject overwhelming scientific evidence supporting the safety of the vaccines when compared to the dangers posed by the virus, we spoke to three people to learn more about the false narratives surrounding COVID-19 and the vaccines. Our first guest is Dr. Katherine J. Wu, a staff writer for The Atlantic who has a PhD in microbiology and immunobiology from Harvard University and has covered many different aspects of the coronavirus since the pandemic began. She tells us that when there is a crisis like this pandemic, it’s not unusual for misinformation to follow and spread confusion.
Our second guest is Texas resident Tony Green, a Republican voter who has written about his first-hand experience with COVID-19. In June 2020, Green and his partner invited six family members to spend the weekend at their home in Dallas. At the time, Green was still referring to the pandemic as a “scamdemic” — wildly blown out of proportion. But over the course of that weekend, he developed symptoms of COVID-19 that would eventually land him and some his extended family in the hospital. In all, the virus spread to 14 members of his family and took the lives of two of them. (Starts at 18:25).
Our third and final guest is U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy who tells us why he issued his “Confronting Health Misinformation” advisory and a special toolkit to help people learn how to navigate their way through all the false and misleading information not just about the virus and vaccines, but about all kinds of health-related topics. (Starts at 35:32).
Is that a fact? is brought to you by the nonpartisan, non-profit News Literacy Project. For more information, go to newslit.org.