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As US battles COVID-19, flu shot misinfo spreads

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US health officials are pushing Americans to get vaccinated against the flu to help prevent hospitals already busy battling COVID-19 from being overwhelmed this winter, but false claims are threatening their efforts.
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Misinformation on social media, particularly that a flu shot will increase the risk of contracting the coronavirus or cause you to test positive for COVID-19—it won't—is undermining the public health message.

One false claim circulating on Facebook and Instagram said a flu shot would raise the probability of COVID-19 infection by 36 percent. Another on Instagram said Sanofi's flu vaccine Fluzone was 2.4 times more deadly than COVID-19.

A national study from the University of Michigan found that one in three parents planned to skip the flu vaccine for their children this year, with mothers and fathers pointing to misinformation, including the belief that it is not effective, as a reason.

"Primary care providers have a really important role to play in this flu season," said Sarah Clark, research scientist at the Michigan Medicine Child Health Evaluation and Research Center, who led the study.

"They need to send parents a clear and strong message about the importance of flu vaccine."

But with daily COVID-19 infections rising to record levels in several US states, false information remains a barrier to people getting vaccinated.

Jeanine Guidry, an assistant professor at Virginia Commonwealth University who studies health messaging on social media, said: "There is so much misinformation related to COVID and I really believe that that spills over" to the flu.

Amelia Jamison, a misinformation…
Science X staff
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