Facebook officials said Thursday that the social media giant will begin to remove misinformation posted about vaccines for COVID-19 in the coming weeks, as vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna are expected to roll out.
Officials said they will remove debunked vaccine claims from Facebook and Instagram in line with the company’s policy to remove misinformation about the virus “that could lead to imminent physical harm.” Earlier this year, officials announced plans to reduce distribution and add warning labels to COVID-19 posts which fact-checkers found to be false.
Conspiracy theories and misinformation about the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 vaccines have proliferated online, particularly on social media. Among the false claims Facebook officials said they would remove are “claims that COVID-19 vaccines contain microchips ” and allegations that “specific populations are being used without their consent to test the vaccine’s safety.”
It was not immediately clear when the new policy would go into effect.
“We will not be able to start enforcing theses policies overnight,” Facebook officials said Thursday in a news release. “Since its early and facts about COVID-19 vaccines will continue to evolve, we will regularly update the claims we remove based on guidance from public health authorities as they learn more.”
The move comes after a COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech was approved for emergency use in the United Kingdom. The drug has not yet been approved in the U.S., although a Food and Drug Administration committee is set to review data from the companies’ clinical trial next week.
Last month, officials with Pfizer and BioNTech said the vaccine was 95% effective in its clinical trial.
Biotechnology company Moderna on Monday asked the FDA to approve emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine. The company had announced that a clinical trial found the drug to be 94% effective.
The FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee is scheduled to meet Dec. 15 to review the company’s data.
Officials said they expect the first vaccine doses to be delivered by Dec. 15, if the FDA authorizes emergency use for the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine next week.
The U.S. continues to lead the world in COVID-19 cases with more than 13.9 million reported as of Thursday afternoon, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University. More than 273,000 people in the U.S. have died of the viral infection.
Worldwide, more than 64.7 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported since the virus was first detected in December 2019, resulting in over 1.4 million deaths.
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