Trust in CDC, FDA Took a Beating During Pandemic

Dejania Oliver

June 09, 2021

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

Trust in the CDC and FDA has decreased dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic among health care professionals, according to a new WebMD/Medscape poll.

Out of nearly 2,000 U.S. nurses surveyed on Medscape between May 25 and June 3, 77% said their trust in the CDC has decreased since the start of the pandemic, and 51% said their trust in the FDA has decreased. Similarly, out of nearly 450 U.S. doctors surveyed in the same time period, 77% said their trust in the CDC has decreased and 48% said their trust in the FDA has decreased.

Health care professionals have been critical of these agencies' decisions during the pandemic, with some concerned that their work has been politicized.

"I do not question, doubt or disagree with the mission(s) of the agencies," one nurse wrote in a comment on the Medscape poll. "I do (within the last 2 years) question the degree to which leaders of those institutions are able to truly implement scientifically sound and public health-centric recommendations and practices free from political influence and bias."

Fewer WebMD readers said their trust in the agencies had taken a hit during the pandemic. Of nearly 2,200 U.S. WebMD readers surveyed between May 26 and June 1, 44% said their trust in the CDC had decreased during the pandemic, and 33% said their trust in the FDA had decreased.

Doctors and nurses reported relatively lower trust in the CDC than WebMD readers. Among doctors, 31% said they trust the CDC in general, compared to 25% of nurses and 45% of WebMD readers. The FDA didn't fare much better: 37% of doctors, 27% of nurses, and 41% of WebMD readers said they trust the FDA in general.

In addition to a lack of trust, many health care professionals said they disagreed with the CDC's and FDA's actions on COVID-19. About half of both doctors and nurses said they disagreed with the FDA's overall decision-making during the pandemic, compared to 36% of WebMD readers. Nearly 60% of doctors and 65% of nurses said they disagreed with the CDC's overall pandemic guidance, while 39% of WebMD readers did.

Last month's CDC guidelines that fully vaccinated people did not need to wear masks or socially distance are a prime example of where health care professionals disagree with official guidance.

"The new CDC masking guidelines centers those communities that have high rates of vaccination and those for whom masking was a burden," tweeted pediatrician Rhea Boyd, MD.  "In communities where most folks are still "waiting to see" or lack access to vaccine, masking is still critical for EVERYONE."

"They flip flop daily on masks and which vaccine is safe," a doctor commented about the CDC and FDA on the Medscape poll. "Sadly, I no longer feel I can trust them at all."

Sources:

WebMD/Medscape poll, May 25-June 3, 2021: "Do you trust the CDC and FDA?"

Twitter: @RheaBoydMD, May 14, 2021.

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