The Covid-19 Infodemic — Applying the Epidemiologic Model to Counter Misinformation

New England Journal of Medicine
August 19, 2021 Vol. 385 No. 8


The Covid-19 Infodemic — Applying the Epidemiologic Model to Counter Misinformation D. Scales, J. Gorman, and K.H. Jamieson
Throughout the world, including the United States, medical professionals and patients are facing both a pandemic and an infodemic — the first caused by SARS-CoV-2 and the second by misinformation and disinformation. The Annenberg Public Policy Center’s tracking of social and legacy media has found that millions of people have been exposed to deceptive material alleging that SARS-CoV-2 is a hoax or that experts are exaggerating its severity and the extent of its spread, that masks are ineffective or increase infection risk, or that Covid-19 vaccines cause the disease, alter the recipient’s DNA, or include tracking devices. Believing such claims is associated with a lower likelihood of engaging in preventive behavior and a lower willingness to be vaccinated.1
We believe the intertwining spreads of the virus and of misinformation and disinformation require an approach to counteracting deceptions and misconceptions that parallels epidemiologic models by focusing on three elements: real-time surveillance, accurate diagnosis, and rapid response…