The Council of Canadian Academies (CCA) released a report examining how misinformation affected COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths from March to November 2021.
“Misinformation damages social cohesion and collective action by undermining democratic discourse and distorting our understanding of the potential consequences of both our personal choices and policy options” the report states.
Misinformation about COVID-19 is estimated to have cost the Canadian health-care system at least $300 million in hospital and intensive care unit visits during the study period, not including the cost of outpatient medication, physician compensation, or long COVID.
The report also said misinformation led people into believing COVID 19 wasn’t real or was exaggerated, creating hesitation about receiving the vaccine.
This hesitancy affected more than 2.35 million people during the study period, leading them to delay or refuse to get vaccinated, the report says.
If those individuals had been vaccinated as soon as the eligibility period opened, by the end of November 2021, there would have been 200,000 fewer cases and 13,000 fewer hospitalizations, according to the report.
The CCA also says misinformation exposes individuals to harm as a collective and can leave people vulnerable to baseless fears and exploitation. For the collective, misinformation also erodes trust, fosters hate,and diminishes our capacity for collective action.