Doctors could face sanctions for spreading misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines
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Logo of the Medical Council of Guyana
Logo of the Medical Council of Guyana

AS Guyana continues to record an increase in cases of COVID-19, the Guyana Medical Council has said that physicians who use their position of authority to denigrate the COVID-19 vaccination drive are not only “constitutionally unethical, but also unprofessional and dangerous”.

The actions of such doctors are even more severe, because Guyana has over 3,000 active cases of COVID-19, and vaccines continue to demonstrate excellent effectiveness against severe COVID-19 illness, hospitalisation and death.

“Medicine is a noble and respected profession. We are all held accountable for our decisions and actions.

Minister of Health Dr. Frank Anthony

“Any doctor who provides disinformation about the COVID-19 disease and vaccines contradicts our ethical and professional responsibilities. Expertise does matter, as facts outweigh opinions. Our physicians have stayed current in their fields of interest by submitting annual CMEs (continuing medical education) for re-licensure,” the Council said in a statement on Thursday.

The Medical Council of Guyana recognises that all physicians registered and licensed to practice medicine in Guyana are held to a high degree of public trust. This is due to their many years of specialised training, and gaining knowledge and experience to care for the sick, the vulnerable, all age groups and genders, regardless of their economic status.

“However, any doctor who spreads disinformation, misinformation and falsehoods to the public during a time of Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) goes against what we represent. COVID-19 is a potentially lethal illness,” the Council posited.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) had declared COVID-19 a PHEIC back in January 2020. Since then, the entire world has been significantly affected with increasing deaths, disabilities and economic turmoil.

“This grave medical emergency requires our community of physicians to continue their commitment to science, the art and practice of evidence-based medicine, and the provision of the very best, most accurate and timely information available to their patients and families,” the medical council said.

The regulatory body went on to state: “The fact that we have safe, effective and widely available vaccines against COVID-19 is outstanding, given the many challenges faced.”

As a result of the government’s aggressive vaccination campaign, from sourcing to administration, persons in Guyana have had the benefit of being vaccinated with one of six vaccines: Oxford-AstraZeneca, Sinopharm, Sputnik V, Moderna, Johnson and Johnson, or Pfizer.

The Government of Canada, like many other countries and institutions across the world, has said that vaccination is one of the most effective ways to protect families and communities from COVID-19.

“Evidence indicates that vaccines are very effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalisation and death from COVID-19, including against the Alpha and Delta variants of concern. Recent reports in Canada indicate that less than one per cent of those who were fully vaccinated have become sick with COVID-19,” the Canadian government has stated on its official website.

Agreeing with global findings, and basing her comments on the evidence at hand, Dr. Karen Cummings, who served as a junior minister in the former Public Health Ministry, said: “We in the APNU+AFC continue to reiterate that vaccines provide a powerful and effective public health tool to prevent serious infectious hospitalisation and deaths.”

This has been something which the Minister of Health, Dr. Frank Anthony has stated time and again, all in an attempt to encourage Guyanese to embrace the government’s vaccination drive and response to COVID-19.

“Once people are vaccinated, environments will be safer, and we have to create a safe environment if we are to push back against the virus,” the Health Minister had said.

In a comment which contrasted the view of not only the minister, but also his colleague A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) Parliamentarian, Jermaine Figueira has advocated for the use of herbal remedies to treat persons infected with COVID-19, even with there being no evidence to substantiate the effectiveness of this method of treatment.

With there being no approved herbal medication for COVID-19, the authorities have warned, time and again, that self-treatment is not safe. And while the prowess of herbal medication in the treatment of certain ailments is undeniable, there is no evidence to suggest that this is the case when it comes to dealing with COVID-19.

Uncertainty, rumours and misinformation are things which Dr. Cummings criticised the government for not addressing adequately, but reports show that several members of the APNU+AFC have been actively participating in the misinformation campaign.

Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon, who is fully vaccinated, had hosted a press conference and called for the administering of the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine to be suspended, claiming that it could be fake. It is the same vaccine that he himself had been inoculated with.

Nonetheless, Harmon’s utterances were soon put to rest, as the manufacturers of the vaccine responded with documentation attesting to the authenticity of the ‘jabs’.

Although Figueira and Harmon are not registered medical practitioners, their influence in society has affected the vaccination drive in some parts of the country, according to the authorities.

On the other hand, the Medical Council of Guyana has said that it supports the position taken by the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) that proposes to take disciplinary action against any “certified doctor” who spreads disinformation about the COVID-19 disease and vaccines.

“We have all sworn to uphold the Hippocratic Oath to “do no harm”, and as such we should not promulgate treatments that are demonstrably ineffective and harmful,” the medical council related.

The Guyana Medical Council has acknowledged all the “good work” that has been done by the community of physicians to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Guyana.

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