Data deficit: What causes RSV and why is it a problem now?
- An increase in cases of flu, Covid-19, and RSV has driven conversations among vaccine skeptics about the potential relationship between the illnesses, specifically Covid-19 and RSV.
- Public health experts have voiced concern over pediatric RSV cases, but people are left with questions about their risk and how to protect themselves and their children.
- Some vaccine skeptics have promoted the idea that Covid-19 vaccines, mask-wearing, and other Covid-19 mitigation measures harmed children’s immune systems, leaving them more vulnerable to RSV.
- Others have misleadingly suggested that the disease being diagnosed as RSV in children is actually an adverse event associated with Covid-19 vaccination. They misinterpret data to claim Moderna lists RSV as a potential side effect of the Covid-19 vaccine.
- Discussion of RSV and its potential causes has re-opened the door to promoting false claims about Covid-19 vaccines, including that they are a net harm to children’s immune systems and/or cause harmful side effects.
- False claims that vaccine manufacturers knew RSV was a potential side effect of the Covid-19 vaccine promote the idea that pharmaceutical companies do not take safety data seriously.
- How is RSV diagnosed?
- What causes RSV? Why is it worse this year?
- How do vaccines – specifically mRNA vaccines – affect children’s immune systems?
Data deficit: Is a new RSV vaccine safe to administer during pregnancy?
- RSV cases have spiked recently, affecting children most acutely.
- Pfizer is developing a new mRNA vaccine, to be administered during pregnancy, to confer protection against RSV to newborns.
- Vaccine skeptics have used these stories referencing mRNA technology to rehash debates about Covid-19 vaccine safety.
- Perceived safety concerns about the Covid-19 mRNA vaccine are now driving claims that the mRNA RSV vaccine will not be safe for pregnant people or their babies.
- Vaccine skeptics have said concerns about RSV are “fearmongering” to promote uptake of an RSV vaccine.
- News stories about an mRNA RSV vaccine present further opportunities to discuss mRNA vaccines, including the Covid-19 vaccine, and their perceived safety issues.
- Skeptics believe the RSV vaccine was developed too quickly and claim that profit is the primary motivating factor in bringing the vaccine to market.
- How do pharmaceutical companies ensure the safety of clinical trial participants, especially those who are pregnant?
- What would be the benefits of administering RSV vaccines during pregnancy?
- What other kinds of mRNA vaccines could we see brought to market in the coming months, years?
Data deficit: Is it safe to combine flu and Covid-19 vaccines?
- Pfizer and Moderna are developing a single vaccine that combines four flu strains and two coronavirus strains.
- Vaccine skeptics are promoting several false or misleading claims about the combination shot: it would create long-lasting negative effects; its component strains should not be approved without further study; it will not be effective in preventing infection.
- Further, skeptics believe the two pharmaceutical companies are taking shortcuts in studying the safety and efficacy of the vaccine, suggesting the vaccine’s development is motivated by profit.
- The development of a new vaccine to protect against Covid-19 provides a relevant, timely opportunity for skeptics to reignite discussion about the safety and efficacy of Covid-19 vaccines more generally.
- Skeptics believe the vaccine was developed too quickly, providing ammunition to claim that safety studies were not properly conducted.
- How long does vaccine development usually take? Is the process different in this case?
- Are there any dangers to combining the flu and Covid-19 vaccines?
- Will the side effects of a combination vaccine be different or worse?
Improving Contextual Understanding:
Twitter impersonations confuse and mislead: With Elon Musk now at Twitter’s helm, moderation decisions on the platform have become fluid. Musk made several rapid decisions regarding how Twitter would respond to and prevent impersonation on the platform. By paying $8 monthly, accounts could receive a blue checkmark – previously reserved for verified accounts. This has resulted in multiple users paying $8 to create fake “verified” accounts to impersonate others. Musk suspended the Twitter Blue program and plans to bring back a revised version, which he says will have tighter rules, on Nov. 29. White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Ashish Jha is among those who have been impersonated, with a recent tweet from the fake account claiming, “We (the govt) are intentionally disabling & murdering millions & millions & millions of ppl by continuing to let COVID rip & lying abt everything.” Twitter has taken down some imposter accounts, but the problem has not been resolved. This continues to present reputational risk to high-profile accounts and the opportunity to sow misinformation.