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Tag: anti vax

Anti-Vaxxers Now Accusing Hospital Physicians Of 'Murder'

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet

Anti-vaxxers have taken conspiracy theories to a new level with their latest attempt to convince unvaccinated COVID patients to leave hospital intensive care units.

According to NBC News, conspiracy theorists are circulating serious allegations about doctors treating COVID patients. The publication reports that they claim doctors are "preventing unvaccinated patients from receiving miracle cures or are even killing them on purpose."

Ivermectin enthusiasts and anti-vaxxers have also been spreading misinformation in Facebook groups telling COVID positive individuals to "stay away from hospitals and instead try increasingly dangerous at-home treatments."

NBC notes that the disturbing claims underscore "the escalation in mistrust" of the scientific community and medical professionals. The misinformation epidemic has grown worse over the last several months with the rise of the rapidly spreading Delta variant of COVID-19. Doctors and nurses in hospital systems across the country have also expressed concern about the rise in misinformation amid the resurgence of COVID.

Wes Ely, an ICU doctor and professor Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, revealed how their intensive care has changed over the last month with the rise in severe cases among the unvaccinated.

"We were down to four Covid patients two months ago. In this surge, we've had 40 to 50 patients with Covid on four different ICU services, 97 percent of them unvaccinated," said Ely. "We were making headway, and now we're just losing really, really badly. There's something that's happening on the internet, and it's dramatically increasing steam."

Harvard Medical School physician Aditi Nerurkar also expressed deep concern about what she describes as "vigilante medicine": a decision "wherein patients are deferring potentially lifesaving care from doctors to try unproven cures pushed on Facebook."

"It's vigilante medicine: medicine being practiced by laypeople who are reading groups created by other laypeople in echo chambers and silos that, likely, someone in the anti-vax movement is profiting from," she said.

Although social media has become the central hub for misinformation, Facebook insists it is fighting back against the spread of false information.

"We remove content that attempts to buy, sell, or donate for Ivermectin," a Facebook spokesperson confirmed in an emailed statement. "We also enforce against any account or group that violates our COVID-19 and vaccine policies, including claims that Ivermectin is a guaranteed cure or guaranteed prevention, and we don't allow ads promoting Ivermectin as a treatment for COVID-19."

Sen. Rand Paul Says He Won’t Get Vaccinated Despite CDC Recommendation

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) said Sunday that he will not be getting a COVID-19 vaccination. Paul claimed that since he already had COVID-19, he believes he has immunity. Speaking with WABC radio in New York, Paul said he would not change his mind about not getting vaccinated unless he sees evidence proving that the vaccine is more effective than surviving from the actual virus. “Until they show me evidence that people who have already had the infection are dying in large numbers, or being hospitalized or getting very sick, I just made my own personal decision that I'm not getting vaccinated be...

Why Ron Johnson’s Anti-Vax Stupidity Is Deadly — To Republicans

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

The United States no longer has to stand by for a daily White House downplaying of the threat from COVID-19, promotion of fake cures, or encouragement to get a bleach injection. That's a good thing. So is the increased availability of vaccines that, though a long way from herd immunity, may be playing a significant role in preventing the United States from seeing a real "fourth wave" of cases.

Last November, researchers at the National Institutes of Health produced a study that now seems eerily prescient. Based on the idea that vaccines could be 95 percent effective in preventing COVID-19, and that these vaccines would also reduce transmission, they modeled the effect in the U.S. of achieving 40 percent vaccination of the total population. The researchers concluded that the rate of new cases could be almost cut in half, the burden on ICUs greatly reduced, and the number of deaths drastically cut back well in advance of hitting the kind of numbers usually associated with herd immunity.

With 40.9 percent of Americans now having received at least one dose, that effect could be preventing a surge in the United States right now. We're only now reaching the levels where that effect is significant, but as the vaccine numbers go up, the possibility of a return to normal draws ever nearer. The math and science shows that every American who gets a vaccination is taking a step that benefits the whole nation.

But what if you don't believe in science? Or math? Or doing anything that helps someone else? In that case, look no further than the advice being offered by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-is for Russia) who is doing his best to keep vaccine hesitancy high.

While some very smart people were working out the benefits of vaccination and healthcare workers all over the nation were working to turn these numbers into reality, there has continued to be a cadre of Republicans who have undercut the vaccination effort. And with Trump reduced to sideline player, the biggest in-office source of pro-death propaganda may be the Kremlin favorite, Johnson.

As Forbes reports, Johnson has declared himself "highly suspicious" of the "big push to get everyone vaccinated." Part of this appears to be back to that not understanding math thing. Johnson has argued that because the vaccine is 95 percent effective, that means "only a limited number" of people really need to be infected. How that works in Johnson's head is unclear, and no one really wants to go in there, but however this is supposed to work, it doesn't.

Johnson then went on to encourage young people not to get vaccinated, and pushed back against the use of any sort of vaccine passport to protect public safety, calling it "a very freedom-robbing step."

Johnson then turned to the ultimate basis of all Republican policy: selfishness. "If you have a vaccine quite honestly what do you care if your neighbor has one or not?" said Johnson said. "What is it to you? You've got a vaccine and science is telling you it's very, very effective. So why is this big push to make sure everybody gets a vaccine?"

The Republican Party no longer has a platform beyond "Obey Trump," but if they were adding planks, "I've got mine, why the hell should I care about anything else?" would certainly be high on the list. Only it shouldn't be surprising that Johnson has this thing completely upside down.

If he, and other Republican "thought" leaders like Marjorie Taylor Greene and Tucker Carlson are really so set against getting a vaccine, what they should be doing is telling everyone else to get vaccinated.

Right now, 43 percent of Republicans are saying "no" to the vaccine. All over the country, red counties are finding themselves with a vaccine surplus. Whole states like Georgia, Mississippi and Montana are pondering what to do about wasted vaccines and unfilled vaccine appointment calendars (Hint: Send them to communities of color, where demand is high). Unless that number goes down, it would take near perfect participation from every other American adult to reach the lowest threshold for herd immunity. And what herd immunity does is protect the people who did not get vaccinated.

By discouraging everyone from getting vaccinated, the people Ron Johnson is most putting at risk are his Republican followers. Which makes it tempting to adopt a Johnson-esque attitude and just sort of … snicker. However, these are human lives on the line. And in addition to Republican vaccine conspiracy theorists, in every community there are a small number of people who legitimately cannot get vaccinated. That can be due to very specific allergies, or to immune system issues. Those people are protected when the population reaches herd immunity, because the disease is no longer readily spread within the community. Efforts of bozos like Johnson also put those people at risk.

It's important to counter the lies spread by Johnson, Greene, Carlson, and others, and to encourage the maximum number of people possible to get vaccinated. That protects the people who can't get vaccinated, and it helps to protect everyone from having millions of lingering infections that kick out new, ever more resistant, variants. More effort needs to be put into public campaigns to push or pull people to get vaccinated.

But looking at it from Vladimir Putin's point of view, convincing people not to get vaccinated does make America weaker. So … good job, Ron.

TikTok Promoting Far-Right Conspiracy Theories To Unwitting Young Users

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

A number of seemingly harmless conspiracy theory TikTok accounts appear to be peddling dangerous misinformation to their unknowing audience. Even worse, TikTok's recommendation algorithm appears to encourage users to follow accounts that push similar extremist misinformation.

While these accounts may look benign or silly on the surface, a deeper dive reveals a darker truth: They're also disseminating far-right conspiracy theories.

Conspiracy TikTok, also known as "ConspiracyTok," is a community that regularly discusses conspiracy theories. Because of the massive size of the community and popularity of the content, discussion topics widely vary. Some accounts are dedicated to documenting alleged proof of extraterrestrial life; others solely post flat earth conspiracy theories.

Research published in 2014 by the University of Chicago found that about "half of the American public consistently endorses at least one conspiracy theory." Conspiracy theories have been (and most likely always will be) popular, but not every conspiracy theory is built the same -- and some have the potential to present material harm to their subscribers.

TikTok Encouraging Users Onto Far-Right Accounts

Beyond the innate popularity of conspiracy theories, TikTok's account recommendation algorithm (which is tailored to the "interests" or "connections" of an individual user) makes it easier for users to be pulled into a world of radical content. In one instance, when a user follows a seemingly harmless flat earth account, they get prompts to follow a slew of accounts pushing anti-vaxx misinformation, QAnon-related theories, COVID-19 denial, and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. This pattern repeats when further following TikTok's account recommendations.

The Camouflage

A user curious about conspiracy theories runs the risk of inadvertently getting sucked into a far more malicious rabbit hole, which is why seemingly harmless conspiracy theory accounts posting far-right conspiracy narratives is uniquely dangerous.

For example, "Conscious Content" is an account with over 11,300 followers and an innocuous bio that reads, "Learn and inspire!" Some of its first videos are about Atlantis, TV show predictions, and the "amazing intelligence of mushrooms." However, a closer examination of the profile reveals that the creator also reposts clips in support of far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and believes that Jeffrey Epstein was an Israeli spy.

This is not an isolated example, and in fact seems to be a pattern among other popular conspiracy theory accounts.

Another user, "jeff.speaks.facts" has over 157,500 followers and over 2.3 million likes. Their bio reads "Jesus is Lord and Savior" and the account appears to push conspiracy theories about celebrities. Yet again, a slightly closer look reveals that they have pushed the wildly anti-Semitic Rothschild conspiracy theory and received over 24,800 likes on that single video.

Similarly, "we.are.the.cure," an account with over 31,900 followers, frames itself as a spirituality account -- pushing conspiracy theories through a religious lense. However, mixed in is a video pushing the Rothschild conspiracy theory with a picture of what appears to be the devil above the name. The caption of the video encourages users to tag someone who "doesn't know this." The account also uploaded a 12-part video series about the Illuminati and its "secret plans for the world."

Some Dangerous Conspiracy Theories On ConspiracyTok

Some accounts that appear to focus on niche conspiracy theories or spiritual enlightenment are also posting dangerous COVID-19 misinformation and QAnon conspiracy theories, deceiving unsuspecting followers.

Misinformation about adrenochrome (a substance QAnon followers believe is harvested from the blood of children and then consumed by "global elites") appears to be a popular piece of misinformation circulating in conspiracy theory communities.

  • "ConspiracyRebels" has a profile picture of a triangle and eye, commonly associated with the Illuminati, and many of the account's latest posts are about ancient aliens. Yet, just days earlier the same account posted a videopurporting to show "Adrenochrome" with the caption, "They Are Lying To Us."
  • "Jabarr," another conspiracy theory account with over 17,200 followers and bio reading "Knowledge is Power. Knowledge is truth" also posts about adrenochrome.
  • "Deep Down The Rabbit Hole," an account that claims to focus on "health" and "spirituality" and has over 7,500 followers posted a video about adrenochrome. The account also uses the QAnon-affiliated hashtags "#thestormisuponus," "#deepstate," and "#cannibalism."
  • Infinite.energy, an account with over 127,500 followers and over 1.6 million likes, presents itself as a spirituality account, posting videos about "creating your own reality" and "how to manifest." A deeper dive shows that the account has promoted conspiracy theories about the New World Order and has used the hashtag "Q."

COVID-19 misinformation widely circulating on TikTok is a documented problem, and an issue that the platform has promised to aggressively combat. Yet, harmful anti-vaccination and COVID-19 misinformation routinely circulate in conspiracy theory spaces.

  • "This shot will rearrange your DNA. They've planned this for one hundred years, it is the mark of the beast," says ember_inside_me1, a conspiracy theory account with the Illuminati eye icon as their profile picture. The account has over 27,500 followers.
  • One account called "TruthSeeker1111" with the bio "Truths, yoga, self inquiry" seems to be a spirituality and enlightenment account. Yet, the account is also peppered with anti-vaccination and COVID-19 denial videos.
  • Another conspiracy theory account, "Opened Eyes," claims to "aid spiritual growth" in other users and has over 15,500 followers. Many of their posts preach enlightenment, but scattered in their feed is a variety of COVID-19 misinformation. "You probably won't be getting the vaccine…right? Educate people why…" reads overlaid text.

TikTok Is Failing Its Young Users

By not diligently moderating extremist content on its own platform, TikTok is allowing for the rapid spread of far-right misinformation to an audience of young users. All of the extremist content identified in this report is supposedly prohibited by TikTok, but remains widely circulated.

Tucker Carlson Ignites Outrage With Deceptive Anti-Vax Tirade

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Fox News host Tucker Carlson is being accused of promoting coronavirus vaccine skepticism and anti-vaxxer talking points when he posed questions Monday night as if they were unanswered and legitimate – questions that have been very publicly answered for months.

"So all of this should prompt some pretty tough questions for our public health experts in this country," Carlson insisted to several hundred thousand viewers. "And one of those questions is, how effective is this coronavirus vaccine? How necessary is it to take the vaccine? Don't dismiss those questions from 'anti-vaxxers,'" he said scornfully.

"Don't kick people off social media for asking them, answer the questions."

"The administration would like you to take this vaccine. Joe Biden told you last week if you don't you can't celebrate the Fourth of July. But it turns out there are things we don't know about the effects of this vaccine — and all vaccines by the way."

Americans generally agree that the job of a journalist is to inform, to deliver news and information, not to ask basic questions that are easily answered because – in this case – the federal government and the vaccine manufacturers have already answered them.

These are not state secrets, but as many on social media noted, when you posed them as if they were, you're promoting anti-vaxx skepticism, and during a pandemic, that is potentially deadly.

Watch Carlson from his Monday night show:

Last year CNN reported Carlson makes $10 million a year. And while the combined annual salaries of everyone I know don't reach that staggering umber, let's do Tucker's job for him.

Just going to Google and entering "how e" literally gave me the answer:

And, as most Americans already know, the vaccines range between about 85% effective (Johnson & Johnson, one dose shot) to about 95% effective (Moderna and Pfizer, two-dose shots.)

But Carlson thinks the government is hiding this information. It's not.

Media Matters has a longer clip here.

Here's how some are reacting:

Banned By Facebook, Anti-Vax Misinformer Moved To New Page

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters

In November 2020, Facebook removed a page where Del Bigtree, a notorious anti-vaccine figure, broadcast his show -- The High Wire -- to a large online audience.

Bigtree's page was removed after Facebook determined that he violated the platform's policies against "misinformation that could cause physical harm." He had used his High Wire broadcast to claim that COVID-19 was "one of the most mild illnesses there is," that wearing a mask poses a serious health hazard, and that people should intentionally expose themselves to COVID-19, among other dangerous claims. Facebook's action came months after he was banned by YouTube, where he had also broadcast his show.

On February 8, The New York Times reported that Facebook says it will "remove posts with erroneous claims about vaccines from across its platform."

Bigtree continues to share dangerous medical misinformation on Facebook. After the platform banned The High Wire's page, he began to post dangerous medical misinformation on another page he operates. The page is not hard to find -- its name is "Del Bigtree."

On that page, Bigtree shares disinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine, including the baseless claim it will eventually kill half of its recipients. He also pushes dangerous falsehoods about COVID-19, including his suggestion that the disease doesn't actually exist. Some of Bigtree's dangerous claims on his Facebook page are documented below:

Bigtree Promoted Denial Of Coronavirus Fatalities

Bigtree's Facebook page shared a video from a January 6 Washington, D.C., event called the "Rally for Health Freedom." The event coincided with other rallies in Washington that day that culminated in a failed insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Bigtree was a speaker at the event and made a number of medically dangerous claims after asking the crowd, "Are people really dying" of COVID-19? Bigtree touted the widely promoted, but false, claim that COVID-19 vaccines cause infertility and claimed that vaccine manufacturers are "murdering people."

He went on to engage in COVID-19 denial. Claiming "I don't think God messed up" in the creation of humans, Bigtree said, "I don't think there's some coronavirus that can override the brilliant immune system that is born into us" and that "99.99% of us are showing how great God's design is, because this virus does nothing to us." (More than 450,000 people in the United States have died from the disease.)

He then falsely called COVID-19 a "cold," and claimed that unlike quarantine measures put in place to stop the spread of COVID-19, "we let the Spanish flu run its course, we let MERS run its course, we let SARS run its course" and "we all lived." (That is not what happened during those outbreaks, some of which killed many people.)

Saying that he stood with supporters of Donald Trump who refuse to wear masks and commenting on the size of his crowd, Bigtree also bragged that he has "been to more superspreader events than almost anyone I know" before falsely claiming that there is "no such thing as asymptomatic spread" of COVID-19.

Bigtree Shared Video Falsely Attributing Convulsions To COVID Vaccine

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Gun And Anti-Vax Extremists Fuel Shutdown Protests

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters

Investigative reporting has illuminated connections between pro-gun activists and the fringe protests demanding that various states prematurely end stay-at-home orders and allow nonessential businesses to reopen. Local gun activists in Wisconsin and Virginia, some well-known national gun rights extremists, and pro-gun message boards are cheering on the protests too.

The nationwide anti-quarantine protests started with what was dubbed "Operation Gridlock" on April 15 in Lansing, Michigan, one of states that has been hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic. Thousands of cars drove up to the capitol to demonstrate against the state's stay-at-home order, and protesters led chants to "recall" Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who had recently extended the order and added more restrictions. Similar protests quickly cropped up across the country and featured signs that expressed anti-government sentiments -- resisting vaccines, comparing the stay-at-home orders to tyranny, and emphasizing freedom over safety.

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Trump Official Covers Up President’s Toxic Anti-Vaccine Rhetoric

Trump’s secretary of health and human services, Alex Azar, is pushing falsehoods about Trump’s past advocacy of harmful anti-vaccine conspiracy theories — even as anti-vaccine extremism has helped measles cases reach a 25-year high.

During the 2016 campaign, Trump met with leaders of the discredited anti-vaccine movement, and spread some of their discredited theories about vaccine schedules during a nationally televised GOP primary debate. Before he ran for president, Trump also spent years pushing the lie that vaccinations cause autism.

Yet in a conference call with reporters on Monday, Azar claimed that Trump’s alarming record on vaccines was nothing to worry about, and just part of a “debate” about the issue that has now been “settled.”

But there was no legitimate “debate” on whether vaccines caused autism by the time Trump was pushing his lies.

In 2015, Centers for Disease Control (CDC) principal deputy director Dr. Anne Schuchat testified before the Senate and discussed vaccines.

She was directly asked by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) if there is “any scientific evidence that vaccines cause autism,” or if there was any scientific evidence that linked vaccination to allergies or autoimmune disorders. Schuchat said no.

She was also asked if changing the vaccine schedule to give kids smaller doses over a longer period of time — a common unscientific suggestion from anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists, and one that Trump made on the debate stage — is healthier for kids.

“No, it actually increases the risk period for children,” Schuchat explained.

That was a widely covered exchange that took place before the 2016 campaign. Before that, as the CDC notes, multiple studies going back to 2013 showed that there is no link between vaccines and autism.

Yet in tweet after tweet, Trump pushed the lie long after he should have known better, using his huge platform to push dangerous misinformation that now threatens American lives.

Lately, Trump has changed his tune and said that the outbreak means “vaccinations are so important” and that people “have to get their shots.”

But that cannot erase his many years of infecting the public discourse.

And Trump underlings like Azar are lying to Americans by seeking to absolve Trump of his past sins.

Published with permission of The American Independent.

IMAGE: Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.