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INFODEMIC: Klobuchar and Mayo doctors address vaccine misinformation

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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -- Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar is heading an effort to combat misinformation spreading across the internet regarding the COVID-19 vaccine.

"If every night people go home and see a bunch of lies on the internet, they start believing it," Klobuchar said.

According to a Kizer Family Foundation Data, 35% of rural Americans nationwide are hesitant to get the vaccine.

The World Health Organization calls the mass spread of misinformation, an "infodemic."

"An internet rumor that continues to circulate that alleges that the vaccine can cause infertility, and that is a completely unfounded fact," said Dr. Melanie Swift, Mayo Occupational Medicine.

"Some people have been told there are microchips in the vaccine that would somehow track you," Klobuchar said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports more than 56 million vaccine doses have been administered in the United States, along with more than 40 million people receiving at least their first shot.

More than 925,000 doses in Minnesota and more than 495,000 doses in Iowa have been administered.

Mayo Clinic says the vaccine begins working after the first dose.

"The bulk of the data so far is even if you had only one shot and you become infected, the severity of disease you get is less than if you weren't vaccinated," said Dr. Andrew Badley, Mayo infectious disease specialist.

Cases of new coronavirus strains are popping up across the globe. Two versions have been found in Minnesota with 20 reported cases.

"So far the data suggests it affects more readily. It may or may not cause worse disease. But it remains effectively neutralized by vaccines' therapeutic antibodies," Badley said.

He also explained how new variants evolve.

"Every time the virus replicates, it makes a mistake about one in 1,000 times. So with 29,000 bases, it replicates one in 1,000 times. It makes a mistake, you're going to get a lot of mutations. So that is what happened. The variants that are out there right now have somewhere between six and 14 different mutations on the virus which makes it a little bit more difficult than the original Wuhan strain of the virus," Badley said.

As far as misinformation goes, Klobuchar wants people to only trust reliable resources.

"It's pretty easy to go to a mainstream website or to go to the Mayo website or any major medical facility and find out what the facts are about the vaccine. You can look at the information from the manufacturers and you can look at the CDC," she said.

Klobachar has also helped write a bill that would create a COVID-19 Misinformation & Disinformation Task Force. This bill would push homeland security to combat disinformation on the internet.

She, as well as other senators, sent a letter to social media companies to urge those companies to be responsible for filtering misinformation.

"They then committed to redoubling their effort to either take down these tweets or posts. And that is what Twitter is doing. Or to put a warning sign on to the ones that are more ambiguous," she said.

Correction: This story has been modified to add a missed word within a quote.

KaMaria Braye

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