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    COVID-19 has cost at least 2,800 lives and $300 million, new report says


    Jan 26, 2023

    The report examines how vaccine delays have affected COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations and deaths

    Misinformation about COVID-19 in Canada has cost at least 2,800 lives and $300 million in hospitalizations during the nine months of the disease, a new report released on Thursday estimates.

    The report — published by the Council of Canadian Academies (CCA), an independent research agency funded by the federal government — examined how misinformation affected COVID infections, hospitalizations and deaths between March and November 2021. The authors suggest that misinformation contributed to vaccine hesitancy among 2.3 million Canadians. If more people were willing to turn their hands when they were first given the vaccine, Canada could see as many as 200,000 COVID cases and 13,000 fewer hospitalizations, the report said. Alex Himelfarb, the president of the expert group that wrote the report, said that his plan is very conservative because he is looking at only nine months of the disease.

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    “It is clear that tens of thousands of hospitalizations have occurred due to incorrect information,” Himelfarb told reporters. “We are confident that these are revolutionary plans.”

    Himelfarb also said the $300 million estimate covered only hospital costs — the study did not include indirect costs related to things like delayed surgeries and missed labor costs. Many studies have shown that vaccination can reduce the risk of COVID-19 in hospitals. But only 80% of Canadians are fully vaccinated, according to new data from Health Canada. The CCA report identifies two groups of vaccine hesitants: vaccine hesitants and those who refuse. He says the reluctants have expressed concerns about vaccines in general and are questioning the speed with which the COVID vaccine is released. On the other hand, vaccine refusal may believe that the disease is false or exaggerated, the report said.

    Besides the health effects, misinformation deprives people of the ability to communicate, said Stephan Lewandowsky, a professor at the School of Psychological Science at the University of Bristol in the UK and one of the authors of the report.

    “In a democracy, the public should be able to understand the risks we face… and act on them,” he said. “And if you’re drowning in misinformation … then you’re distorting the public’s right — and denying people the right — to be told what their risk is.”

    The report states that misinformation relies on simple messages intended to evoke an emotional response. He says that misinformation is often presented as coming from reliable sources, such as scientific literature. Ideas can work: authors
    The authors also suggest that misinformation may be caused by a person’s personal worldview, ideology, or political identity.

    Hmelfarb said, “Denial about collective action will be very common among people who don’t like collective action,” noting that misinformation can slip into political messages. “When change is associated with identity and ideology, political leaders often turn to change as a way to build their alliances,” he said. He did not mention the name of any politician. Union of Canada leader Maxime Bernier, an outspoken opponent of the COVID-19 public health restrictions and vaccine passports, appeared to unite a segment of voters who view the disease policy as a government shutdown when he used as 5% of the vote in 2021 ends. election.

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    Lewandowsky said social media can help spread misinformation, but targeted policies to combat that information — such as looking for signs and misinformation — can help.

    Himelfarb said it is important to balance freedom of speech in the fight against the media. “Finding that sweet spot is a challenge,” he said.

    Lewandowsky said one way to strike a balance would be to make sure reliable information is available and give people the tools to find out what’s wrong. “People who are telling us the wrong things have a very bold wording … we can recognize them,” he said.

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