AMA takes on vaccine misinformation, physician vaccines, racism


The American Medical Association House of Delegates has adopted a policy to educate physicians on how to speak with patients about COVID-19 vaccination to counteract widespread misinformation about the vaccine development process.

Other highlights of the AMA’s recent special meeting include a new policy on the ethics of physicians getting immunized against COVID-19 and a far-reaching statement about racism.

Under the organization’s new vaccination education policy, the AMA will provide physicians with “culturally appropriate patient education materials,” according to a news release .

This campaign will be conducted “bearing in mind the historical context of ‘experimentation’ with vaccines and other medication in communities of color,” the AMA said, apparently alluding to the infamous Tuskegee study of syphilis in Black men.

Educating the public about the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine programs is an “urgent priority,” the AMA said. This is especially true among populations that have been disproportionately affected by the disease. Black and Latino people are being hospitalized for COVID-19 at far higher rates than White Americans.

“Under the new policy, the AMA will help address patient concerns, dispel misinformation, and build confidence in COVID-19 vaccination,” the release states. The AMA also plans to build a coalition of health care and public health organizations to develop and implement a joint public education program.

Polls have indicated that many people will not get vaccinated when supplies of the new COVID-19 vaccines are available, although public support is rising. A recent Gallup poll found that 58% of surveyed adults were willing to be inoculated, up from 50% in September.

A Kaiser Family Foundation survey in September found that a majority of Americans were skeptical of a rushed vaccine, because they were concerned that the Trump administration was pressuring the Food and Drug Administration to approve a vaccine before the election.

“Given the unprecedented situation with COVID-19 and with vaccine development moving at a rapid pace, many of our patients and the public have questions and concerns,” said AMA President Susan R. Bailey, MD, in the release. “It is essential that we speak together as a strong, unified voice across health care and public health, inclusive of organizations respected in communities of color; to use scientific, fact-based evidence to help allay public concerns; and build confidence in COVID-19 vaccine candidates that are determined to be safe and effective.”

Physician, immunize thyself

The AMA also adopted a new ethics policy about physician immunization. On Monday, the AMA House of Delegates stated that physicians who are not immunized from a vaccine-preventable disease have an ethical responsibility to take appropriate actions to protect patients and colleagues.

The AMA code of ethics has long maintained that physicians have a strong ethical duty to accept immunizations when a safe, effective vaccine is available. However, the organization said in a news release , “it is not ethically problematic to exempt individuals when a specific vaccine poses a risk due to underlying medical conditions.”

Ethical concerns arise when physicians are allowed to decline vaccinations for nonmedical reasons, according to a report presented to the House of Delegates by the AMA Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs.


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