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Board-certified physicians who spread COVID vaccine misinformation risk certification

September 10, 2021

Physicians certified by the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP), American Board of Family Medicine (ABFM) or American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) who provide misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines could risk losing their board certification.

A joint statement signed by the presidents/CEOs of the three primary care boards reminds physicians that they need to provide the most accurate and timely health information available.

“Spreading misinformation or falsehoods to the public during a time of a public health emergency goes against everything our Boards and our community of board-certified physicians stand for,” the CEOs stated. They called such behavior unethical, unprofessional and dangerous.

“The evidence that we have safe, effective and widely available vaccines against COVID-19 is overwhelming,” the statement continues. “We are particularly concerned about physicians who use their authority to denigrate vaccination at a time when vaccines continue to demonstrate excellent effectiveness against severe illness, hospitalization and death.”

The joint message released Thursday follows two similar statements from the Federation of State Medical Boards, which said providing misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccines contradicts physicians’ ethical and professional responsibilities and may subject physicians to disciplinary actions, including suspension or revocation of their medical license.

The ABP, ABFM and ABIM support that position.

The ABP has received complaints about pediatricians who have spread misinformation, said ABP President and CEO David G. Nichols, M.D., M.B.A., FAAP.

“This is a broad-based problem that is not only being reported to individual boards or state licensing agencies,” Dr. Nichols said. “This is of concern because of what we are seeing on social media — and in the media more generally — of unprofessional behavior in spreading misinformation to the public.”

The joint statement “is directed at board-certified physicians — our community — and we’re hoping to validate the vast majority of board-certified pediatricians who are doing a heroic job under difficult circumstances, providing outstanding care, and alert those who are undermining that standard that is not consistent with their certificate,” Dr. Nichols said.

AAP President Lee Savio Beers, M.D., FAAP, said pediatricians “are essential to ensuring that families receive accurate and timely information about COVID-19 and the pandemic. We also know all too well the dangers of misinformation and disinformation to child health. We are grateful to the American Board of Pediatrics for taking this important step.”

The ABP also emailed the statement to all board-certified pediatricians.

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