Anti-vaxxers and the Coronavirus Vaccine


Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

This is a picture of a chemist holding a coronavirus blood test. The COVID-19 vaccine is in the making in the United States. It is unknown when the release date will be. The earliest vaccine trial dates would be late this year or early next year. Russia has released a COVID-19 vaccine called Sputnik V, however it has not gone through all of the trials yet.

Caitlynn Kelley, Journalist and Editor

The coronavirus pandemic has created pandemonium across the globe. Isolation from others, economic uncertainty, and over 200,000 thousand deaths in the US, many should feel relieved that there is a COVID-19 vaccine in the making. However, not everyone feels that same sense of relief. Anti-vaxxers, those who don’t vaccinate themselves or their families, are against getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

One of the major reasons as to why the anti-vaxx movement gained prominence again was due to people’s belief that vaccines cause autism. An inaccurate study from former UK doctor Wakefield stated that MMR (mumps, measles, and rubella) vaccine could cause autism. This study was disproven through journalist Brian Deer’s report on how Wakefield was trying to get a patent for his own MMR vaccine and how he was getting money from an attorney that was suing companies manufacturing  MMR vaccines. After the report shed this information, Wakefield’s medical license was immediately revoked. 

There has been historic opposition towards getting vaccinated. During the smallpox epidemic, the anti-vaxx movement started. Anti-vaxxers during the smallpox epidemic stated that vaccination was a part of a government conspiracy to get rid of personal liberties. Also, there were authority figures that were against getting vaccinated for smallpox. These same tactics are used in the modern anti-vaxx movement.

Many anti-vaxxers say that the COVID-19 vaccine will be enforced by the government, which will get rid of US citizen’s freedoms. A Facebook post from Stop Mandatory Vaccines stated that the CDC (Center for Disease Control) will instate limitless surveillance, vaccine mandates, and detainment. Also, there are posts made by anti-vaxxers that promote false treatments for the coronavirus, which include bleach and Vitamin C. 

Senior Tyler Woods states his opinion on the individuals that participate in the anti-vaxx movement, “They are not the brightest among our society and think they know better than doctors who have studied for years after reading a 350-word article.

Woods disagrees with what the anti-vaxxers spread on social media, “Disagree completely.  They hardly understand vaccines so anything they say is usually unsupported by science and is equal to a conspiracy theory.”

Freshman Erin Carroll gives their beliefs on the anti-vaxx movement, “I think the anti-vaxx movement isn’t really smart because those vaccines are to keep you from diseases and colds. I know there is a vast population of anti-vaxxers, especially parents.”

Concerning anti-vaxxer posts on social media, Carrol says, “I have seen a post like that online but I don’t really know what to think because I do know the government lies to us sometimes but this could not be one of those times. I see where they’re coming from though.”

Senior Ethan Bunn believes that the anti-vaxx movement is nonsensical, “I know that the claim that vaccines cause autism comes from one specific research paper that has since been disproven countless times. The anti-vaxx ‘movement’ is ridiculous and endangers not only the kids who aren’t getting vaccines but other people that interact with those children. There is literally no reason that diseases that we have almost eradicated, like the measles, should be having outbreaks in this day and age.”

Bunn disputes the anti-vaxx claim that the vaccine will get rid of personal freedoms, stating, “How is getting the cure for a disease that is causing the worldwide pandemic taking away anyone’s rights or personal freedoms? If anything, this will bring back the regular day-to-day life that we haven’t had since the beginning of March.”

Bunn describes anti-vaxx rhetoric that he has seen on Facebook, “Luckily I stay off of Facebook for the most part, but the few times I have logged on in the past few months I’ve definitely seen one or two people complaining about a possible vaccine as well as condemning quarantine and the use of masks. They’ve tried to say that masks don’t work, that a vaccine wouldn’t work, that the virus is a hoax, or even that the vaccine will have some sort of device that the government will use to spy on us.”

On Facebook and YouTube, there was a video called Plandemic that was released which promoted anti-vaxx beliefs. it was viewed around 8 million times. In that video, Dr. Judy Mikovits states that Dr. Fauci, a leader in COVID-19 information and the director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, concealed her assertion that vaccines cause harm to people’s immune systems. Also, the video states that wearing masks can help reinfect people with COVID-19. When searching for the video on YouTube, a fact checker and other videos made by scientists invalidate the claims that she makes in the video. 

Anti-vaxxers also use prominent figures or authority figures to confirm their beliefs. 

Several celebrities have voiced their opposition to getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Singer and rapper M.I.A tweeted that she would choose death over getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Tennis player Novak Djokovic, singer Lauren Jauregi, and model Carmella Rose have also posted messages on social media that support anti-vaxx messages about the COVID-19 vaccine. 

On celebrities giving anti-vaxxers credibility, Woods says, “They may give current anti-vaxxers some support and some credibility, but science is the one that gives absolute credibility, not some celebrities I have never heard of.”

Carrol believes that celebrities can give reliability to anti-vaxx messages, “I think their roles as celebrities have a big impact because a lot of people believe in the things celebrities say.”

Bunn believes that celebrities promoting anti-vaxx beliefs are dangerous, “Celebrities, no matter how irrelevant they are, still do hold some sway and persuasion over people. So for them to be pushing for something as asinine as anti-vaxx beliefs is really disheartening. It almost normalizes this belief, which can be very dangerous considering the severity of anti-vaxx beliefs.

Ex-physician Wakefield and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (RFK Jr), John F. Kennedy’s nephew, are on the frontline on denying the threat of the coronavirus and promoting anti-vaxx sentiment. RFK Jr is an environmental lawyer and spreads misinformation about COVID-19 Pandemic and the vaccine on social media. He has credibility since he is a part of the Kennedy family and because of all of the environmental work he has done. Wakefield was a part of an online health conference, which RFK Jr attended. During the conference, he downplayed the seriousness of the COVID-19 Pandemic, said that the majority of Americans are critical of vaccines, and that the COVID-19 Pandemic is a risk to people’s health freedom. 

Due to the misinformation from the anti-vaxxers, there is fear that herd immunity will not be able to happen. Herd immunity is when a majority of people become immune through vaccination. In order to reach herd immunity, around 60% of the global population has to be vaccinated. In order to reach that percentage, due to anti-vaxx sentiment, Senior Scholar at John Hopkins Center for Health Security Amesh Adalja said that there needs to be discussion on the side effects of the vaccine, the risk of COVID-19, and the benefits of the vaccine. 

Woods believes that the anti-vaxx movement is dangerous, “Yes, the anti-vaxx movement is dangerous to those who can’t get vaccines due to immunocompromisation.”

Bunn states that anti-vaxxers not getting the COVID-19 vaccine will completely do away with the efforts of those trying to stop the pandemic , “Absolutely. Anti-vaxxers not getting the vaccine for COVID will become the people that are still catching and spreading the disease if the majority of America were to take the vaccine. It would really make the efforts of everyone almost null.”

Due to how essential the COVID-19 vaccine is to ensure safety for all and helping with eradicating the pandemic, there has been talk about how the government should oppose anti-vaxx messages. 

There has been talk on how to counter anti-vaxx messages. Senator Mitt Romney talked about a social media campaign against anti-vaxx messages and public debates against anti-vaxxers. 

US Surgeon General Jerome Adams stated that there should be educational and compassionate conversations held with parents that are hesitant with vaccinating their children that educate them about vaccines. 

Regarding Senator Romney’s plans on countering anti-vaxx messages, Woods disagrees that those tactics will work, “…I have argued with some anti-vaxxers and they are truly ignorant and stubborn. Of the 10 or so I argued with online, 1 acknowledged my argument.” 

Carrol believes that it depends on how much the people believe in anti-vaxx messages for the government’s response to the anti-vaxx movement to work, “It depends on how strongly the people believe in anti-vaxx because for some there is nothing that could change their minds.”

Bunn believes that the anti-vaxxers couldn’t be persuaded by the government’s messages, “I’m not sure, since anti-vaxxers seem to already be so distrusting of the government. Considering that they don’t listen to literal scientists on the subject, I’m not sure who could convince them.”

Anti-vaxx messages have never been so harmful to the general public. Vaccination is the only way to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. Celebrities and authority figures are spreading the anti-vaxx message and there have been gatherings calling the COVID-10 pandemic a “plandemic.” (the COVID-19 Pandemic being planned by the government). Harmful messages from the anti-vaxx movement helps to spread misinformation in an already politically polarized world.