Less than a week after the UK proposed criminalizing the posting of some types of “knowingly false” information online, England’s National Health Service has taken down a social media video over inaccurate information.
Last week, NHS England posted a video on its Twitter account with more than half-a-million followers to promote vaccination in kids.
The video claimed that 1% of children will be hospitalized because of Covid, 136 kids in the UK had died because of Covid, and 117,000 children have “long Covid.”
The video went viral attracting comments and retweets from some of the most popular influencers in the health category.
But some, including Dr. Robert Hughes, a clinical research fellow at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, questioned the accuracy of the data.
“As both a parent and scientist who has been involved in research on symptom duration and severity of covid in children, the cited statistics didn’t make sense to me,” Hughes wrote in an article in UnHerd. “The idea that 1% of children with Covid are hospitalized for it didn’t pass the ‘sniff test.’”
The video also shared the story of a kid aged 11 that was suffering from long Covid. According to Hughes, the story contradicted the vaccination guidance in the UK, as it does not even recommend vaccination for that age group.
Additionally, there is not yet any substantial evidence to support that the vaccine prevents long Covid.
Hughes also notes that NHS England was silent when he and others questioned the accuracy of the data.
“Several people agreed with me, sharing their working for why these numbers are at best long outdated, may be orders of magnitude out, and risk undermining confidence in vaccine communications and uptake.
“But others seemed to dig in, praising both the content and tone of the messaging when challenged, and directing the discussion into an important, but different, one about the merits of extending Covid vaccination to children rather than the need for accurate and honest communication about vaccination,” Dr. Hughes wrote for Unheard.
Hughes contacted the Office of the Statistics Regulator about the numbers. The Statistics Regulator agreed that it was important that the NHS provides accurate figures.
“It is important that figures provided by NHSE&I are accurate and reliable,” the Office of the Statistics Regulator said. “In this case the claim made in the video fell short of these expectations – we contacted NHSE&I and it acknowledged that the data were historic and had methodological shortcomings. We are therefore glad that the content has now been removed from Twitter.”
Before its removal, the video had already been widely shared.