Misinformation About The CDC's Recommendation For Kids And COVID Vaccines Is Spreading Like Wildfire

When COVID-19 was filling emergency rooms, shuttering businesses, and turning parents and teachers into experts in Zoom, everyone hoped for a cure — or, if that wasn't possible, at least a way to avoid getting it. However, when a vaccine became available, many were wary of it. Rumors quickly spread about "the jab": It gives you cancer. It was approved before enough research could be done. It restructures your DNA. All these are false, according to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, but that hasn't stopped the rumor mill from grinding.

The latest outcry on social media is over the Centers for Disease Control's latest position on children and the COVID vaccines. The story goes that the agency is mandating the shot for all school-age kids, causing a terrible dilemma for public school parents who are hesitant to have their children get the vaccine. Among the first voices to protest was Donald Trump Jr., who has turned heads before with his comments on the Omicron variant. He tweeted: "It's as if they're trying to make sure people don't do even the most basic vaccinations. It's truly hard to even think of these people as serious given all we know about children and COVID and all we don't know about long-term effects. WTF!!!" Florida Governor Ron DeSantis quickly vowed that there would be no COVID vaccine mandate for kids in his state (via Fox News).

There's just one problem with all this: The rumor isn't true.

Social media helps spread misinformation quickly

On October 18, 2022, an advisory committee to the federal Centers for Disease Control recommended that the COVID-19 vaccine be added to its list of suggested immunizations for children, along with established vaccines such as polio. However, a recommendation is not a mandate, explains ABC News. Individual states, not the federal government, decide whether or not schools should require vaccines.

Fox News contributor Tucker Carlson didn't report the story quite that way. In a segment of his show titled "Your Kids, Our Rules," he warned that parents would soon have no choice over their children's health options. He repeated the warning in a tweet, saying, "The CDC is about to add the Covid vaccine to the childhood immunization schedule, which would make the vax mandatory for kids to attend school." His inaccurate spin quickly made the rounds of social media, and fellow conservatives like Donald Trump Jr. helped perpetuate the myth. 

Social media and 24-hour news have made it easier than ever for misinformation to spread far and wide, explains The Washington Post. Health officials may not always refute them publicly, for fear they might actually help keep the rumors alive. It also doesn't help that the pandemic has changed our personalities, making us more stressed and anxious — and, perhaps, more likely to believe fearmongering reporters. So next time you read something scary on Instagram, do a little digging to get the full story. Better yet, put the phone down and go for a walk.