National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Dr. Francis Collins stressed the dangers of incorrect claims regarding the COVID-19 vaccines and suggested tracking down spreaders of vaccine misinformation in an interview with NPR on Sunday.
“The thing that worries me most is the way in which misinformation and, frankly, disinformation has become so prominent in the face of a public health crisis,” Collins told NPR. “And it has been manipulated in some situations for political reasons in a fashion that is turning our culture wars into something really serious.”
When asked whether misinformation is “the deadliest disease,” Collins responded affirmatively, encouraging repercussions for those who intentionally spread false claims about the vaccines.
“I really think they are the ones that we ought to be trying to track down and figure out, why are you doing this?” Collins said. “And isn’t there some kind of justice for this kind of action?”
Collins went on to suggest that vaccine disinformation should be viewed as a threat to public safety and implied support for taking legal action to prevent it.
“Isn’t this like yelling fire in a crowded theater?” Collins asked. “Are you really allowed to do that without some consequences?”
The NIH did not respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment regarding whether Collins’ remarks represented the agency’s position.
Collins’ comments echo remarks made by other health officials, including Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, who called for tech companies to crack down on vaccine misinformation.
President Joe Biden said Facebook was “killing people” for not adequately removing vaccine misinformation from its platform, while press secretary Jen Psaki said the White House was flagging posts for social media companies to remove.