WASHINGTON – U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said Sunday he is worried about the increasing number of new coronavirus cases in the country and laid part of the blame on social media companies for not doing enough to remove misinformation about the need to get vaccinated.
“I’m concerned about what we’re seeing,” Murthy told “Fox News Sunday,” as about 29,000 new cases are being diagnosed every day in the United States, roughly the same level as in April 2020, when the pandemic first swept through the country. The highly contagious delta variant has been particularly problematic.
“This pandemic isn’t over,” he said.
“The good news is that the vaccinated are still highly protected,” he said. But he noted that 95% of the deaths occurring now in the U.S., more than 250 a day, are of people who have not been vaccinated.
Echoing recent remarks by President Joe Biden, Murthy said people are being “inundated with misinformation,” about the available vaccines being unsafe or unnecessary.
President Biden last week said misinformation posted to social media sites was “killing people,” and that, “The only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated.”
The Facebook site used by millions of Americans says it has removed 18 million pieces of COVID-19 misinformation. Murthy said, “Despite what they’ve done, it’s not enough. The intention is good, but I’m asking them to step up” and do more.
In a separate interview on ABC’s “This Week” show, Murthy urged people using social media sites to “verify their sources before posting” comments about the efficacy of the shots.
Analyses have shown that the vaccination rate in the U.S. is markedly lower in states that voted in last November’s election for then-President Donald Trump, who at times downplayed the severity of the pandemic, and now often the number of new cases is higher in the Trump states.
Biden set a goal several months ago of having at least 70% of adults in the U.S. getting at least one vaccine shot by the annual July 4th Independence Day holiday. The U.S., however, fell short of that objective and the number now stands at 68.1%, according to government statistics.
Facebook on Saturday pushed back against claims that it is to blame for people not getting vaccinated.
In a blog post, Facebook said Biden and his aides should stop “finger-pointing” and detailed what it had done to encourage inoculations.
“The Biden administration has chosen to blame a handful of American social media companies,” said Guy Rosen, Facebook’s vice president of integrity. “The fact is that vaccine acceptance among Facebook users in the U.S. has increased.”
Rosen said the company’s data showed that 85% of its U.S. users had been or wanted to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. “Facebook is not the reason (the 70% goal) was missed,” Rosen said.
Over a period of months, Facebook has acted against misinformation on its site, banning anti-vaccination ads and later removing posts with false claims about vaccines, such as that they cause autism or that it is safer for people to contract the coronavirus than to be inoculated.