Like everyone else, early in the pandemic I was terrified of the “novel corona virus” as it hopscotched across the U.S. leaving bodies in its wake.

The fact that so little was known at that time about how the virus was spread helped to fuel my panic. Someone emailed me what was reported to be the minutes of a Stanford University board of directors meeting in which facts and recommendations about the novel coronavirus were shared. I learned from these minutes that by simply holding my breath for 10 seconds and observing any tightening in my chest I could tell whether I had been infected with COVID- 19.

However, after sharing this information with friends I learned that the Stanford University “minutes” were entirely fake. According to an expert on the spread of misinformation who was interviewed on NPR, one reason that people like me unwittingly spread misinformation is that in our desire to allay others’ fears about something like the novel coronavirus we fail to take the critical step of checking the reliability of information before we pass it along.

In JK Wells letter to the editor of December 16, I believe that he made the same mistake that I did by passing along information without first checking out its reliability. For instance, in his letter Mr. Wells made the following statement: “What if former Pfizer vice-president and chief scientific advisor Michael Yeadon, Ph.D., said ‘there is absolutely no need for vaccines to extinguish the pandemic. I’ve never heard such nonsense, you don’t vaccinate people who aren’t at risk from a disease and you don’t set about planning to vaccinate millions of fit and healthy people with a vaccine that hasn’t been extensively tested on human subjects.’”

As recently as November 30, the Associated Press weighed in on the accuracy of this information. CLAIM: The COVID-19 pandemic is ‘effectively over’ and there’s no need for vaccines. AP’S ASSESSMENT: false. The “claim, made in an article by a former employee at the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, ignores that large numbers of people continue to fall ill and die from the coronavirus in many parts of the world. The United Kingdom, which is the subject of the article, saw a surge in coronavirus cases this fall and exceeded 50,000 coronavirus-related deaths earlier this month. Experts say coronavirus vaccines will be powerful tools to help prevent millions of people from contracting the virus.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Immunization with a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine is a critical component of the United States strategy to reduce COVID-19-related illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths and to help restore societal functioning. The goal of the U.S. government is to have enough COVID-19 vaccine for all people in the United States who wish to be vaccinated.”

The takeaway is that we all bear the responsibility to check the reliability of information before we pass it along, especially in regards to the COVID-19 vaccine, a critical component to ending the pandemic, according to the CDC.