Countering Health Disinformation in New York State
Special Projects Fund
June 24, 2019
Vaccine hesitancy and refusal is a major public health threat. In 2000, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declared measles eradicated in the United States. However, in May 2019, the CDC reported 839 confirmed cases of measles during the calendar year. Of those, 498 were located in New York State, leading to multiple counties declaring a state of emergency. If left unaddressed, measles outbreaks can be extremely disruptive and costly. The recent measles outbreak has been strongly influenced by the growing efforts, size, sophistication, and influence of anti-vaccination groups and online bots (autonomous programs that can spread spam or a virus over a network like the internet) and botnets (a network of bots). Despite public health efforts, media-savvy organizations continue to spread vaccine misinformation to parents and the general public through anti-vaccination campaigns.
In an effort to mitigate the ramifications of the current state of affairs, in 2019, NYSHealth awarded a grant to the Public Good Projects to create a media surveillance system designed to help New York’s public health officials, health care systems, and health care providers counter vaccine and other health disinformation initiatives occurring throughout the State.