University of Ottawa Heart institute’s apology for its part in spreading vaccine misinformation is not enough
The University of Ottawa Heart Institute recently made public a preprint of ongoing research in which false data led to a finding of a vast inflation of cases of myocarditis following COVID-19 vaccinations. This false data was quickly picked up by vaccine hesitant groups to validate false beliefs that the COVID-19 vaccines are deadly.
The institute offered seven sentences on their website to serve as an apology for this error. Before the release of this statement, the Fulcrum was in communication with the institute to get a fuller explanation of the error and its damages to vaccine trust: however, following the release of the statement, the institute’s employees were told to refer media to the statement.
This seven sentence apology has not reached the dark corners of the internet that the institute’s false publication has. The false data they distributed is still being used by anti-vax movements to question the U of O’s decision to require vaccinations while simultaneously publishing research seemingly proving a danger.
The brief statement makes apologies for spreading misinformation and issues a direct apology to “Ottawa Public Health (OPH) for our miscalculation of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines administered in Ottawa from June to July 2021.”
The statement also includes an invitation for those still unvaccinated to please do so. But this part of the statement feels like a hollow gesture, knowing that the institute has done little else to combat the misinformation it helped to spread less than a month ago.
The institute’s research has an obligation to heart health above vaccination, and this is not a problem. But for the constant reminders of “unprecedented times” we all receive, it seems a simple mistake such as a miscalculation should have been reviewed before sharing findings which imply such wildly inflated cases of a medical emergency.
In such unprecedented times, a calculated statement in place of an actual media campaign confronting and disproving the misinformation simply does not cut it. The wider publication of truth than that of misinformation seems like the least that could have been done in this case.
Yes, apologize to OPH for setting off alarm bells with false data, apologize for the spread of misinformation, but spread that apology and those corrections as far as you can.
Don’t add a tab to your website and call it a day.
Twitter searches for the University of Ottawa still turn up new mentions of the false data as proof that people are justified in not getting vaccinated. There will be signs bearing the false information you released at the next maskless protest. So do more.