By now, we all know more than we wanted to know about COVID-19, the novel coronavirus that caused a global pandemic. But can you score 100% on a quiz about the virus?
UNICEF, the international nonprofit dedicated to the well-being of children, has been a leading voice in the fight against misinformation related to the pandemic. On its website and in social media, the charity has been posting photos and videos of children from all over the world who are doing the basics: washing hands and social distancing. The nonprofit also launched a chatbot to answer questions from young people about COVID-19.
The bot, which serves as a fact checker for rumors, has been accessed 6 million times, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta H. Fore said in a recent video message.
“Information can save lives,” Fore said. “One of UNICEF’s most important jobs is to spread facts to as many people as we can.”
Scientists and physicians, too, are making an effort to be heard, especially as unfounded information about the coronavirus makes the rounds in social media. Erin Bromage, an associate professor of biology at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, wrote a blog post about COVID-19 transmission and it went viral. CNN recently interviewed the scientist to get his perspective on how to manage the risks of reopening.
Dr. Bob Wachter, chair of the Department of Medicine at the University of California San Francisco, took to Twitter to share his insights about COVID-19. He now has 80,000 followers and was just featured in the Wall Street Journal: Doctors Are Tweeting About Coronavirus to Makes Facts Go Viral
Follow him at @bob_wachter.
The global pandemic highlighted how difficult it can be to communicate health information to the public, but the problem isn’t new. Medicine and health are complex enough that people spend whole careers specializing in one small area. Doctors sometimes vary in the way they interpret information and make decisions in the interests of patients. And, as vaccine researcher Paul Offit has said, those who are experts in medicine and science often don’t speak in soundbites or know how to finesse a complicated question in a short TV spot.
Offit, an infectious disease doctor and director the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, co-invented the vaccine for rotavirus, which can cause life-threatening illness in babies. In his 2018 book, “Bad Advice,” he encouraged scientists to engage more with the public and said there’s no venue too small. Offit also advised consumers to be savvy and dig deeper to find reliable, responsible information.
If you’re looking for information about plasma donation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, you’ll find a Q&A section at the CoVIg-19 Plasma Alliance website. The alliance, including CSL Behring, brings together the world’s leading plasma companies with advisory assistance from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The alliance formed in March to expedite effective treatments for the novel coronavirus.