Doctors who spread misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines risk losing not just their medical licenses, but their board certifications as well.
The warning comes from a joint statement released Friday by three prominent specialty medical boards: the American Board of Family Medicine, the American Board of Internal Medicine and the American Board of Pediatrics. The backdrop for this strongly worded statement is rising COVID-19 cases and deaths and stubbornly high rates of vaccine hesitancy.
The groups affirmed their support for a statement the Federation of State Medical Boards issued in July, which makes clear providing false information about COVID-19 vaccines contradicts physicians’ ethical and professional responsibilities and may subject them to disciplinary actions, including suspension or revocation of their medical licenses.
“We also want all physicians certified by our boards to know that such unethical or unprofessional conduct may prompt their respective board to take action that could put their certification at risk,” the boards wrote. ABFM CEO, Dr. Warren Newton, ABIM CEO, Dr. Richard Baron, and ABP CEO, Dr. David Nichols signed the letter.
In order to be board-certified, physicians must demonstrate they’ve stayed current in their field. Spreading falsehoods during a public health emergency goes against everything the boards and their communities of board-certified physicians stand for, the joint statement says. That’s especially true when the evidence that the COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective is “overwhelming,” the statement says.
Providing misinformation about a lethal disease is “unethical, unprofessional and dangerous,” the boards’ leaders wrote.
“We are particularly concerned about physicians who use their authority to denigrate vaccination at a time when vaccines continue to demonstrate excellent effectiveness against severe illness, hospitalization and death,” the boards wrote.
U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy has called rampant misinformation about the vaccines an “urgent threat” to public health that undermines efforts to end the novel coronavirus pandemic. Murthy called on doctors to do a better job of answering questions and explaining why public health guidelines sometimes change based on new information.