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Letters and unsubstantiated press releases

Infodemic, misinformation, and unsubstantiated press releases

BMJ 2022; 378 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.o2131 (Published 02 September 2022) Cite this as: BMJ 2022;378:o2131

Rapid Response:

The global fight against the ‘infodemic pandemic’: The imperative to discharge a ‘multi-process approach’

Dear Editor

Indispensable to ‘Sustainable Development’ involving every facet of ‘Human Existential Advancement and Harmony’ is the facilitation of ‘Appropriate and Effective Communication’ which, therefore, qualifies to be captured as a ‘COVID Phenomenon’[1]. Incidentally, the ‘COVID-19 Pandemic’ is the prototype of the ‘COVID Phenomenon’ and several previous ‘Communications’ allude to this fact[1-5]. Ironically, the ‘COVID-19 Pandemic’ has, in fact, been riddled with ‘Palpable Huge Programmatic Communicative Deficits’: Lack of ‘Appropriate and Effective Communication’ with the resultant ‘COVID-19 Infodemic’ as a ‘Pandemic in a Pandemic’ and tagged the ‘COVID-19 Infodemic Pandemic’.

‘Infodemic’ is a ‘Widespread Communication Pathology’ with recognized ‘Various and Varied Variants’ including but not restricted to: Misinformation, Disinformation, Rumours, Myths, Memes, Denialism, Information Concealment, Purposely Downplaying Information Importance-Relevance, Misleading Communication, Inappropriately Contextualized Concepts, Information Toxicity, Stealth Information Disposition etc. The recent ‘Communications’[6,7] are, therefore, quite instructive and intriguing. The BMJ must be commended for the ‘Corporate Courage and Commitment’ to ‘Publish’ ONLY ‘Verifiable Truths and Facts’ which stand ‘Robust Peer-Review Mechanisms’ and are ‘Evidence-based’ in addition to disposing ‘Declarations’ on ‘Conflicts of Interest’[6,7].The ‘Once-in-a-While’ exception to Publish ‘Press Releases’ BUT mandatorily accompanied with the ‘Appropriate Supporting Original Document’ should not be ENTERTAINED. ALL ‘Published Materials’ MUST pass the ‘Established Robust Publication Standards’.

The BMJ had similarly courageously disposed ‘Corporate Commitment and Vision’ when it stopped further ‘Advertisement’ of ‘Breastmilk Substitutes’ which also were not subjected to the usual ‘Time-tested Journal Publication Standards’: ‘Robust Peer-Review Mechanisms’ and are ‘Evidence-based’[8]. This stance was commended in several subsequent ‘Communications’[9-11]. Publication of such ‘Breastmilk Substitutes Advertisements’ is tantamount to facilitating ‘Infodemic’.

The decision of the BMJ to stop the ‘Publication’ of ‘Unsubstantiated Press Releases’[6,7] is reportedly intended to assure that ONLY ‘Good Enough’, ‘Peer-Reviewed Equivalent Information’ and ‘Evidence-based Communication’ are disseminated using the ‘Journal Armoury’ as ‘Appropriate and Effective Communication’ for ‘Sustainable Development’.

The WHO [12] decried the ‘Massive Infodemic’ during the ‘COVID-19 Pandemic’ aptly tagged ‘COVID-19 Infodemic’; indeed ‘COVID-19 Infodemic Pandemic’: ‘Pandemic in a Pandemic’! This Author consistently drew attention to ‘Potential Contributors’ to the ‘COVID-19 Infodemic Pandemic’[13-32]. Essentially, the ‘Potential Determinant Contributors’ to the ‘COVID-19 Infodemic Pandemic’ included, among several others: Not adhering to the ‘Robust Research Governance Principles’ with possible ‘COVID-19 Research Wastes’, ‘Politics’ undermining the ‘Science’ of ‘COVID-19 Pandemic’, ‘COVID-19 Pandemic Interventional Precocity’ without incontrovertible ‘Best Available Research Evidence (BARE)’, ‘COVID-19 Pandemic Interventions’ implementing several ‘Unsettled/ Unanswered Questions’. Addressing these ‘’Determinant Contributors’ constitutes the ‘Multi-Process Approach’ to fighting ‘Infodemic’ particularly the ‘COVID-19 Infodemic Pandemic’.

It is reportedly hoped that Newspapers, Journals and ‘Other Information Communication Media’ will uphold the established ‘Principles and Practice’ of the ‘Fourth Estate of Democracy’[33]. Some ‘Characteristic Features’[7,12] that may be ‘Warning Pointers’ to possible ‘Infodemic’ include, among others:
1. Vague Sources
2. Syntactic Inexactitude: Spelling, Grammar, Punctuations etc
3. Messages triggering strong emotions
4. Transmitted by only one source
5. Fake Media Accounts
6. Requests for ‘Readers’ to ‘Share’
7. Readers should ‘Follow the Money’
Readers were reportedly requested to ‘Consult’ known ‘Fact-checking Websites’ for the extant ‘State of the Infodemic’ which possibly would have been declared to be ‘Debunked Information’.

At the height of the ‘COVID-19 Pandemic’, the USA declared a ‘War on the COVID-19 Infodemic Pandemic’. It was suggested that the ‘Infodemic Pandemic’ had a much ‘Faster Devastating Spread’ than the ‘COVID-19 Pandemic’ and, therefore, required ‘Global Solidarity and Collaboration’ to achieve the desired ‘Infodemic Control’ to similarly ultimately ‘signpost’ a ‘Global COVID-19 Pandemic Control’.

This ‘Communication’ is a modest ‘Contribution’ to further excite increasing discourse on the ‘Infodemic Conversations’ generically and specifically concerning the ‘COVID-19 Infodemic Pandemic’.

REFERENCES
1. Eregie C.O. COVID Phenomenon: An innovative conceptual coinage in Human Development and Sustainable Development in the 21st Century. https://www.bmj.com/content/368/bmj.m1199/rr-17 of 9th April 2020
2. Eregie C.O. Still on COVID-19 Pandemic as a ‘COVID Phenomenon’: beyond the impact on the goals of sustainable development. https://www.bmj.com/content/369/bmj.m1336/rr-16 of 14th April 2020
3. Eregie C.O. COVID-19 Pandemic, ‘COVID Phenomenon’ and appropriate assessment of nations: rekindling the imperative of the ‘Eregie Performance Gap Index (e-PGI)’ as a Development Ranking Tool (DRT). https://www.bmj.com/content/369/bmj.m1336/rr-19 of 15th April 2020
4. Eregie C.O. COVID-19 Pandemic, ‘COVID Phenomenon’ and the politics of the science, facts, research evidence and ‘evidence-based medicine (EBM): the imperative for rekindling the ‘multiparameter-based medicine (MBM)’ in the 21st Century. https://www.bmj.com/content/369/bmj.m1336/rr-20 of 17th April 2020
5. Eregie C.O. COVID-19 Pandemic: The multifaceted picture of compromised COVID-19 research and the ‘COVID Phenomenon’. https://www.bmj.com/content/369/bmj.m1847/rr-12 of 10th June 2020
6. Abbasi K. The BMJ will no longer report on unsubstantiated press releases. BMJ 2022; 378:o1878
7. Murmu L, Murmu S. Infodemic, misinformation, and unsubstantiated press releases. BMJ 2022; 378:o2131
8. Godlee F. No more infant formula advertising in The BMJ. BMJ 2019; 364: l1279 of 21st March 2019
9. Eregie C.O. There is no Breastmilk Substitutes (Including Infant Formula) and Prohibition of its Advertisement is Programmatically Appropriate for Optimal Child Health. https://www.bmj.com/content/364/bmj.l1279/rr-4 of 28th March 2019
10. Eregie C.O. Still on the Superiority of Breastmilk over Breastmilk Substitutes (Including Infant Formula): Further Justification for the Programmatic Appropriateness of the Prohibition of Advertisement of Breastmilk Substitutes. https://www.bmj.com/content/364/bmj.l1279/rr-5 of 2nd April 2019
11. Eregie C.O. Breastmilk, Breastmilk Substitutes (Including Infant Formula) and Infant Microbiome: Still more Justification for the Prohibition of the Advertisement of Breastmilk Substitutes (BMS). https://www.bmj.com/content/364/bmj.l1279/rr-6 of 4th April 2019
12. Fleming M. Coronavirus misinformation, and how scientists can help to fight it. Nature 2020; 582:6. Doi:10.1038/d41586-020-01834-3 pmid: 32601491
13. Eregie C.O. COVID-19 Pandemic: Further perspectives on the difficult unresolved increasing challenges in weathering the storm. https://www.bmj.com/content/368/bmj.m1199/rr-16 of 5th April 2020
14. Eregie C.O. COVID-19 and the quadruple-barrel tragedy: matters still evolving for the works. https://www.bmj.com/content/369/bmj.m2197/rr of 19th June 2020
15. Eregie CO. COVID-19 pandemic tragic octad: The evolving conceptual qualitative interventional equation to fight the pandemic. https://www.bmj.com/content/369/bmj.m2303/rr-9 of 24th June 2020
16. Eregie C.O. COVID-19 Pandemic and the ‘Determinant Nonad’: Rekindling the imperative of the twin medical reformation interventions of ‘Multiparameter-Based Medicine (MBM)’ and ‘Medical Socioeconosophy (MSE)’. https://www.bmj.com/content/369/bmj.m2379/rr of 7th July 2020
17. Eregie C.O. COVID-19 Pandemic, the quest for urgent information and solutions and the paradox: making haste slowly to avoid ‘COVID-19 Research Waste’. https://www.bmj.com/content/370/bmj.m2668/rr of 17th July 2020
18. Eregie C.O. COVID-19 Pandemic, the quest for urgent information and solutions and the paradox: making haste slowly to avoid ‘COVID-19 Research Waste’; time for strategic ‘COVID-19 Research Retreat for a Decad’. https://www.bmj.com/content/370/bmj.m2668/rr-0 of 21st July 2020
19. Eregie C.O. COVID-19 Pandemic, vaccines, vaccinations and antibody therapies: The paradox of making haste slowly with cautious optimism. https://www.bmj.com/content/370/bmj.m2722/rr-2 of 27th July 2020
20. Eregie C.O. COVID-19 Pandemic and compromise of science and standards: First was ‘COVID-19 Research Waste’ and now ‘COVID-19 Pharmaceuticals Catastrophe’. https://www.bmj.com/content/370/bmj.m3260/rr-4 of 1st October 2020
21. Eregie C.O. COVID-19 Pandemic and compromise of science and standards: Still on ‘COVID-19 Pharmaceuticals catastrophe’; before and beyond the ‘Vaccines Marathon Finish Line’. https://www.bmj.com/content/370/bmj.m3260/rr-6 of 8th October 2020
22. Eregie C.O. COVID-19 Pandemic and vulnerability of science to assault: Imperatives to uphold research governance principles. https://www.bmj.com/content/372/bmj.n12/rr-4 of 22nd January 2021
23. Eregie C.O. COVID-19 Pandemic, beyond the ‘Vaccines Marathon Finish Line’ and ‘Post-Vaccines Approval Programmatic Haze’: The evolving ‘2nd Dose Uncertainties’; still more unfolding ‘Matters in the Work’. https://www.bmj.com/content/bmj.n18/rr-13 of 27th January 2021
24. Eregie C.O. COVID-19 Pandemic, COVID-19 Vaccines and ‘2nd Dose Uncertainties’: Still unresolved evolving matters. https://www.bmj.com/content/372/bmj.n162/rr-3 of 8th February 2021
25. Eregie C.O. COVID-19 Pandemic and COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy: An Imperative to be Cautious with COVID-19 Vaccine Boosters; Avoid ‘Programmatic Recommendation Precocity’. https://www.bmj.com/content/374/bmj.n1686/rr of 11th July 2021
26. Eregie C.O. COVID-19 Pandemic: A persisting pervading devastating unprecedented 21st century scourge; the imperative to protect, project and promote the immutability of the factuality of science to the rescue. https://www.bmj.com/content/374/bmj.n1896/rr-0 of 23rd August 2021
27. Eregie C.O. COVID-19 Pandemic, COVID-19 Vaccines and successful vaccination programmes: a further clarion call to observe research governance-related best practices and a critical look at preprints. https://www.bmj.com/content/376/bmj.o321/rr of 23rd February 2022
28. Eregie C.O. Covid-19 Pandemic, Reinfection, Reactivation and COVID-19 Rebound: Efficacy of Covid-19 Pharmaceutical and Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions; The Imperative to Guard Against Interventional Precocity in Downing Guards. https://www.bmj.com/content/377/bmj.o1365/rr of 15th June 2022
29. Eregie C.O. COVID-19 Pandemic, COVID-19 Vaccines and Rapidly Transmuting SARS-CoV-2 Variants/ Sub-variants: The Quest for Pan-Sarbecoviruses Vaccine Variants; A Further Imperative to Guard Against Global Interventional Precocity in Downing Guards. https://www.bmj.com/content/377/bmj.o1257/rr-0 of 17th June 2022
30. Eregie C.O. COVID-19 Pandemic, Disregard for Expert ‘COVID-19 Pandemic Control Advisories’ and Uncomplimentary Outcomes: The Imperative to Rekindle the Relevance of ‘Multiparameter-based Medicine (MBM)’. https://www.bmj.com/content/378/bmj.o1853/rr-1 of 11th August 2022
31. Eregie C.O. COVID-19 Pandemic, SARS-CoV-2 transmission and the unsettled narratives: Time to be guided by the correct science to inform appropriate precautionary interventions for the pandemic control. https://www.bmj.com/content/378/bmj-2022-069940/rr-2 of 16 September 2022
32. Eregie C.O. COVID-19 Pandemic, increasing ‘unanswered questions’ and the pandemic trajectory: Any envisioned terminus for the ‘evolving pandemic chameleonic reality’? https://www.bmj.com/content/378/bmj.o2183/rr-0 of 27th September 2022
33. Cooke P. What is the Fourth Estate, Why is the press called the fourth estate and where does the term come from? Sun 30 July 2019. www.the-sun.co.uk/news/6600872/fourth-estate-media-fourth-estate-term.

Professor Charles Osayande Eregie,
MBBS, FWACP, FMCPaed, FRCPCH (UK), Cert. ORT (Oxford), MSc (Religious Education),
Professor of Child Health and Neonatology, University of Benin, Benin City, Nigeria.
Consultant Paediatrician and Neonatologist, University of Benin Teaching Hospital, Benin City, Nigeria.
UNICEF-Trained BFHI Master Trainer,
ICDC-Trained in Code Implementation,
*Technical Expert/ Consultant on the FMOH-UNICEF-NAFDAC Code Implementation Project in Nigeria,
*No Competing Interests.

Competing interests: No competing interests

01 October 2022
CHARLES OSAYANDE EREGIE
MEDICAL DOCTOR
Professor of Child Health and Neonatology, University of Benin, Benin City, Nigeria and Consultant Paediatrician and Neonatologist, University of Benin Teaching Hospital, Benin City, Nigeria
Institute of Child Health, University of Benin, PMB 1154, Benin City, Nigeria.