“Disease X” epidemic preparedness event sparks conspiracy theories

A World Economic Forum meeting about global preparedness for “Disease X” caused some on social media to speculate that the event is part of a plan to launch a disease more deadly than COVID-19. English and Spanish language posts express distrust of the World Health Organization, and some users claim that Disease X was created to force new vaccines on the public.

Risk level: Low

Recommendation: These types of social media posts may promote distrust in guidance from government and public health officials during current and future disease outbreaks. While conversations about the World Economic Forum meeting are unlikely to arise in a clinical setting, doctors may face questions about “Disease X” and vaccine safety. Talking points may emphasize that “Disease X” is not a real disease; it is a term used in epidemiology to refer to potential future disease threats. Epidemic preparedness helps to ensure that countries are better equipped to detect, prevent, and respond to these outbreaks and potentially prevent them from spreading beyond their borders. Vaccines are created in response to real diseases, and they are rigorously tested before they become available to the public. The benefits of vaccination outweigh any potential risks, because vaccines prevent severe illness and death.