California: Docs may be disciplined for spreading COVID lies

October 1, 2022 GMT

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Doctors who spread coronavirus lies could be disciplined for unprofessional conduct in California under a law signed Friday by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The bill, AB2098, introduced by Democratic Assembly Member Evan Low, declares that a physician or surgeon commits professional misconduct if they disseminate “misinformation or disinformation” about the nature and risks of COVID-19, its prevention and treatment and the development, safety and effectiveness of vaccines.

A doctor who commits such conduct could face discipline by the state medical board or osteopathic medical board and in severe cases, could potentially lose their license to practice in California.

It was the last remaining vaccine-related bill of note after the more controversial measures didn’t pass.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2018, more than 95,000 Californians have died, according to figures from the state Department of Public Health.

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More than 80% of the population has been vaccinated with at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine but Low’s bill said the spread of disinformation about vaccines “has weakened public confidence and placed lives at serious risk.”

The bill’s language says that the Federation of State Medical Boards has warned that physicians who spread misinformation or disinformation “risk losing their medical license, and ... have a duty to provide their patients with accurate, science-based information.”

In August, state Sen. Scott Wiener announced that he wouldn’t pursue a vote in the Assembly for a bill allowing teens 15 and up to be vaccinated for COVID-19 without parental consent.

Wiener said it didn’t have enough support to pass.

Wiener, a Democrat from San Francisco, blamed the lack of support on “months of harassment and misinformation” by “a small but highly vocal and organized minority of anti-vaxxers.”

The bill was one several coronavirus-related bills that faced heavy opposition.

Newsom and Democratic Sen. Richard Pan both delayed until next year measures relating to school vaccinations, while Democratic Assemblymember Buffy Wicks withdrew her bill that would have forced all California businesses to require coronavirus vaccines for their employees.