Fauci warns against ‘normalisation of untruth’ since pandemic

Top US doctor Dr Anthony Fauci has warned against a “normalisation of untruth” which has been growing since the pandemic, and urged people to speak up for science.

He linked the growing number of measles cases globally to questioning by “anti-vaxxers” of covid-19 vaccines which is now “spilling over” into other areas.

Dr Fauci was in Dublin on Wednesday night to receive the Stearne Medal for his outstanding contribution to public health from the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland.

He was central to America’s fight against covid-19, and previously against HIV/AIDS in his role as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases from 1984 to 2022.

He described how people who question vaccines expend a lot of energy sharing incorrect information.

In contrast the general public, he said: “have a lot of other things on their minds, so sometimes what they hear, they assume is true.

“And if you have enough people sending out false information, then there is going to be what I refer to, and I am very concerned about it, which is the normalisation of untruth.”

He warned: “This means there is so much untruth out there that people on the outside shrug their shoulders and say ‘I can’t tell the difference between what’s true and what’s not true’.”

He was aware of measles concerns in Ireland, now at 16 cases.

“In the United States as of last week we had 115 measles cases, we usually have a handful,” he said.

Those are often related to travel which he said is usually “ a dead-end” for transmission except when “the vaccination rate in a given country gets below a critical level”.

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He added “the anti-vaxxers who have gained a lot of strength in covid” are now looking at other areas.

“It’s spilling over now to people questioning whether you should vaccinate your children for measles,” he warned.

Speaking to reporters he said young people and healthcare workers should not hesitate to “openly communicate about facts, data and evidence” including on social media as a counter-balance.

He also said while he is non-political the pandemic emphasised the importance of leadership.

“President Trump was in many respects denying the seriousness of it early on, which I think had us lose some time early on,” he said.

“He wanted so much for it to go away, because it was an election year that he didn’t essentially, in my mind, fully be a leader and tell the American public we’ve got to be careful.”

His wife Christine Grady, a nurse and bioethicist, accompanied him. She said she has ancestry in Clare and Sligo.

The medal was presented by Dr Diarmuid O’Shea, RCPI president, and Tánaiste Micheál Martin.

Dr O’ Shea said: “His tireless efforts in advancing the frontiers of medical science have saved millions of lives and his courage, leadership and passionate advocacy for science will continue to inspire generations of healthcare professionals.”

“In an era marked by rampant misinformation and skepticism, his steadfast advocacy for evidence-based practices has been instrumental in shaping public health policies and safeguarding lives,” he added.

Mr Martin said: “It is my honour to mark Dr Fauci’s contribution to public health here at one of Ireland’s foremost scientific institutions.”

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