Standing before a local school board in central Indiana this month, Dr. Daniel Stock, a doctor in the state, made a false claim about the coronavirus. He stated that the recent increase in cases shows that vaccines are not effective, that people are better off taking a medicine and a supplement to prevent hospitalization from the virus, and a mask. does not help prevent the spread of infection.
His appearance has become one of the most viewed videos about coronavirus misinformation. The videos – several versions are available online – have garnered nearly 100 million likes and shares on Facebook, 6.2 million views on Twitter, at least 2.8 million views on YouTube and more than 940,000 views videos on Instagram.
The popularity of his talk points to one of the more striking paradoxes of the pandemic. Even as many doctors fight to save the lives of people who are sick with Covid-19, a handful of their medical colleagues have been highly influential in spreading misinformation and misinformation about the virus and vaccines. ask for.
There are now growing calls among medical groups to discipline doctors who spread inaccurate information. Last month, the Federation of State Boards of Health, which represents physician licensing and discipline groups, recommended that states consider taking action against doctors who share false medical claims, including suspension or revocation of a medical license. The American Medical Association said spreading misinformation violates a code of ethics that licensed doctors agree to follow.
“When a doctor speaks, people pay attention,” said Dr. Humayun Chaudhry, president of the Federation of State Boards of Health. “The title of doctor gives credibility to what is said to the public. That is why it is important that these doctors do not spread misinformation.”
Dr. Stock has joined doctors including Dr. Joseph Mercola and Dr. Judy Mikovits, and a group calling themselves Doctors of America’s Frontline, to create huge audiences for claims that don’t have their real. Statements by them and others have contributed to vaccine hesitancy and resistance to face masks that have exacerbated the pandemic in the United States, public health officials said.
Doctors often stand in lab coats and use simple medical jargon, showing an air of authority. They often capitalize on a willing audience online by live-streaming press conferences and maintaining interest by promising new evidence that will expose corruption and support their arguments.
Several state health boards have disciplined doctors for their behavior during the pandemic. In December, the Oregon Health Commission ordered the emergency suspension of a doctor’s license after he violated state orders by not wearing a mask or requiring patients to wear one. The ruling bans doctors from practicing medicine in Oregon until the governor declares a pandemic emergency.
In January, a San Francisco doctor who falsely claimed that 5G technology caused the pandemic volunteered his license to the California Health Commission.
Carlos Villatoro, a spokesman for the California Health Commission, said: “The public spread of misinformation about Covid-19 can be considered unprofessional conduct and could be grounds for disciplinary action. the law.
But Dr Chaudhry said it was impossible to know how many states had opened investigations into doctors spreading misinformation. Such investigations are usually not made public until a decision is made, and the process can take months.
Dr. Stock, 59, did not respond to several requests for comment for this article. He has been a licensed physician in Indiana since 1989, a year after he graduated from Indiana University School of Medicine. He has worked at several hospitals, urgent care centers and private facilities in the state, according to a LinkedIn profile.
On Dr. Stock’s website, he sets himself apart from conventional medicine. “By presenting patients with all of their treatment options – whether it is pills, lifestyle changes, therapies or supplements – I help patients choose the option that best suits their needs. them,” the website reads. “This leads to permanent healing, not just the temporary relief found in the traditional system.” He sells dozens of vitamins and supplements on the site.
In a video that went viral this month, Dr. Stock is seen speaking before a board meeting of the Mt. Vernon in Fortville, just east of Indianapolis. Standing with his back to the camera and speaking in a short, almost monotone clip, he opened his statement with the line: “Everything the CDC recommends is actually against the rules of science.” . He then selectively cites academic studies to give the impression that widespread medical advice, such as wearing masks and getting vaccinated, isn’t working.
YouTube, which bans videos that spread misinformation about the virus, said it would not remove all video of the meeting that the school board had posted online. “While we have clear policies in place to remove harmful misinformation about Covid-19, we also recognize the importance of organizations like school boards using YouTube to share versions of their stories. recordings of open public forums,” said Elena Hernandez, a YouTube spokeswoman.
The original video of the meeting has more than 620,000 views. Previous Mount Vernon school board videos on YouTube each garnered only a few hundred views.
Understanding the mission of vaccines and masks in the US
- Vaccination rules. On August 23, the Food and Drug Administration fully licensed Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for people 16 years of age and older, paving the way for increased mandates throughout the public sector. and fourth. Private companies are increasingly required to vaccinate their employees. Such duties are legally permitted and have been upheld during court trials.
- Mask rule. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in July recommended that all Americans, regardless of immunization status, wear face masks in indoor public places in disease-affected areas, reversing the agency’s guidance. This agency was released in May. See where CDC guidance applies and where states have established their own mask policies. The mask fight has become controversial in several states, with some local leaders defying the state’s ban.
- Colleges and Universities. More than 400 colleges and universities are requiring students to get the Covid-19 vaccine. Almost all were in states that voted for President Biden.
- Schools. Both California and New York City have introduced mandates to vaccinate education workers. A survey released in August found that many American parents with school-age children oppose mandatory vaccinations for students, but are more in favor of making face masks mandatory for students. unvaccinated students, teachers and staff.
- Hospitals and medical centers. Many large hospitals and health systems are requiring staff to get the Covid-19 vaccine, citing the high numbers provided by the Delta variant and low vaccination rates in their communities, even in their workforce.
- New York City. Workers and customers need to have proof of vaccinations when dining, exercising, performing, and other indoor situations, although enforcement doesn’t begin until September 13. Teachers and other educators in the city’s vast school system will need to have at least one dose of the vaccine by September 27, with no weekly testing option. City hospital staff must also be vaccinated or have weekly checkups. The same rules apply to employees of the State of New York.
- At the federal level. The Pentagon announced that it will seek to make the coronavirus vaccine mandatory for the country’s 1.3 million active-duty troops “no later than” mid-September. President Biden announced that all staff members Federal citizens will have to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or undergo regular testing, social distancing, mask requirements, and most travel restrictions.
YouTube has removed the edited meeting videos to show only Dr. Stock’s talk. But some of those versions went viral before YouTube made that decision, with views surging to 15,000 an hour in the days following the meeting, according to a New York Times analysis of available YouTube data. .
People have shared his talk on alternative video platforms like Bitchute and Rumble, and on blogs like “Hancock County Patriots” and “DJHJ Media.” A version of the video on Twitter, shared by one-time adviser to former President Donald J. Trump, has garnered more than six million views. Another sharing was shared by Representative Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio.
Dr. Stock also appeared on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” on Fox News, repeating the false claim that there isn’t “any consensus that masks work – the data is murky on this.”
Eric Sears, a spokesman for the Indiana Professional Licensing Authority, which oversees medical licensing in the state, said the Indiana attorney general’s office is responsible for investigating public complaints about medical licensure. Doctors spread misinformation about Covid-19. The attorney general’s office submits its findings from those investigations to the Indiana Health Commission.
“To date, we have not been notified by the attorney general’s office of a pending investigation” into Dr Stock, Mr. Sears said. “The board likely will not act until an investigation has been completed by the attorney general’s office.”
David A. Keltz, a spokesman for the Indiana attorney general, said the office was unable to discuss whether any complaints against Dr. Stock were under investigation. Mr. Keltz said the state would issue a public statement on any such investigation only if The office has decided to file a formal complaint with the Indiana Health Board.
Rachel E. Moran, a researcher at the University of Washington who studies misinformation online, including about the Covid-19 vaccine, said doctors spreading misinformation about the coronavirus “exhaustly” use the credibility of their title and medical expertise to make their arguments more authoritative.
“The most frustrating thing about this is the way anti-vaccination advocates often sow distrust among health professionals until it is no longer a useful strategy for them,” said Ms. Moran. said, noting how often they are suspicious of Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director. of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
“Then a ‘doctor’ fits their values, and suddenly that institutional expertise is credible,” Ms. Moran said.
Jacob Silver and Michael H. Keller Contributing research.