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Lack of US COVID-19 data is 'red meat' for anti-vaccine movement: Expert

The U.S. continues to struggle to increase vaccinations, despite recent gains from employer mandates.

The struggle of public health and government agencies to cut through anti-vaccine messaging is partially to blame, experts say.

Two experts who have been monitoring and sharing trusted information, as well as calling out misinformation, are Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, and Dr. Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in California.

To stay on top of the vast amount of information, both scientists attend a regular meeting among top U.S. scholars.

"No one person can get the full sense of all the information out there," Topol said.

Topol said the gaps in information exist, in part, because of the speed at which the country's regulatory and public health agencies are having to filter through information, much of which comes from abroad. Unlike countries like Israel, the U.S. collects data via a decentralized system.

"So much of our trouble is just because of inadequate data, flying blind," he added.

Impact on booster debate

The struggle against disinformation is further impeding U.S. vaccination efforts for booster doses.

"[Scientists and officials] are kind of scratching their heads a bit, because they lack the data to really make the best informed decision," Hotez said.

That was the case for the Pfizer (PFE)/BioNTech (BNTX) vaccine booster, and most recently in the FDA advisory panel's briefing documents for the Moderna (MRNA) and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) boosters.

The struggles with data are happening at a time when more people than ever are watching the vaccine approval process amid "a lot of anti-vaccine aggression that's looking to exploit any weakness in the system," Hotez said.

"This is just red meat for them, as a consequence," he added.

The impact is already being seen, with recent surveys showing that vaccine refusers feel validated because boosters doses are being used to help increase protection against the ongoing pandemic.

"Most unvaccinated adults see the booster discussion as a sign that the vaccines are not working as well as promised," according to the survey.

Follow Anjalee on Twitter @AnjKhem

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