Anti-vaxxers: Coronavirus is changing some minds about vaccinations

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But the virus has also done something more surprising. This caused some anti-vaxxers to change their minds.

Haley Searcy, 26, of Florida, told CNN that she was “totally anti-vax” when her daughter was born in 2019.

“I’ve seen so many stories of children dying in SIDS [Sudden Infant Death Syndrome] and have other dangerous reactions from vaccines, “she said, reiterating the scientifically unsupported but widespread fear among vaccine skeptics that even treatments that have undergone rigorous testing could still be dangerous.

“I was as afraid of vaccines as I was of the diseases they protect against.”

Searcy said that after being advised by her daughter’s pediatrician, she “reluctantly allowed him to get the vaccine,” but still suspected that the vaccines were unnecessary and dangerous. The coronavirus epidemic has changed its point of view. “Since Covid-19, I have seen first-hand what these diseases can do when not fought with vaccines,” said Searcy.

“My mother has lung disease, so if she catches Covid-19, there is no fight. I have learned as much as possible to speak out against disinformation in the hope of being able to convince more people to stay at the house and monitor social estrangement so that she won’t get sick. “

“So many lives are at stake, including people I care about who are very vulnerable.”

In researching how the world has coped with pandemics in the past, Searcy learned how recent pandemics like swine flu are being fought with vaccines. “And I learned how rigorous the vaccine trials are before they are made available to the public,” she said.

It also sought information on countries that had minimized the spread of the coronavirus.

“I was not actively looking for information on vaccines but the more I learned, the more I realized that it would help and the easier it would become to recognize the lack of science in the anti-vax arguments,” she said.

In a number of countries, including the United Kingdom and France, concerns expressed by some people in recent years about vaccines in general have subsided, according to a survey for the Vaccine Confidence Project, a research group from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
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VCP director Heidi Larson said the figures showed that as the number of deaths from the coronavirus increased and public awareness of its severity increased, people were more willing to accept a vaccine. “I think it definitely prompts people to rethink a lot,” she said, but warned that more data was needed to track the reaction over time.

She said that some “were going on the opposite side” and were wary of a possible Covid-19 vaccine.

“This is an important time to think about the value of vaccines,” said Larson. “If we had had a vaccine against this, we would not be locked in a room, the savings would not collapse, we would have been a completely different world. The question I would ask is, do we have to wait for is something so bad? “

When the vaccines spread and people don’t see a threat, they become more skeptical, said Larson. But she added that protecting society “depends entirely on public cooperation”.

A disturbing trend

Most children today receive life-saving vaccines, but health services have noticed a disturbing pattern of declining consumption in recent years.
In the UK, only 33 of 149 local authorities reached their 95% vaccination target for vaccine-preventable diseases in 2018-2019, according to figures from the National Health Service.
Last year, the United States experienced its highest number of measles cases since 1992, mostly among unvaccinated people. In 2019, the United Kingdom lost its measles-free status, a designation conferred by the World Health Organization.
And as Covid-19 increases, a UNICEF report has warned that more than 117 million children are at risk of missing out on life-saving measles vaccines. UNICEF urged countries to continue essential immunization, but said the delay could occur where the risk is “too high”.

The term anti-vax “has not been helpful,” according to Larson. She said that even if there are activists involved, “there are many other people who are on the fence, hesitant or questioning.”

Isaac Lindenberger, who grew up with an Ohio mother who opposes vaccinations, finds it harder to deny the effectiveness of vaccines when faced with a pandemic.
Isaac Lindenberger of Ohio knows all about it. His mother is strongly against vaccination, and his younger brother Ethan made the headlines last year when he decided to be vaccinated against his will at the age of 19. Lindenberger, 23, said he hadn’t thought much about vaccinations until then, but he did his research and was vaccinated six months ago as a condition of entry to Ohio State University.

He stays on good terms with his mother. He hosts a podcast called The Lucid Truth, and his goal is to empathize with community disinformation. “I certainly see the positive effect in anti-vaxxers who previously would not have considered vaccination,” he told CNN. “It is much more difficult to be in a state of denial regarding the objective truth of the dangers of these infectious diseases when faced with a pandemic.”

He said those who report measles are harmless because we have few deaths in the western world due to vaccinations, it was much more difficult to do the same with the coronavirus.

“The anti-vaxxers are still there. But they don’t show up because during an infectious disease pandemic, this is probably not the right time to try to call for preventive measures,” said Lindenberger. “They are a bit in their echo chambers.”

Those who publicly oppose vaccines are now exposed to harsh criticism. Tennis player Novak Djokovic raised his eyebrows on Sunday after voicing his views on a coronavirus vaccine while discussing the impact of the pandemic.

“Personally, I am against vaccination and I would not want to be forced by someone to take a vaccine in order to travel,” said Djokovic in a live Facebook chat. “But if it becomes mandatory, what will happen? I will have to make a decision. I have my own thoughts on the matter and if these thoughts will change at some point, I don’t know.”

Some people in anti-vax groups fear that governments will use blockades as an opportunity to pass legislation such as enforcing compulsory vaccines.

This is of grave concern to Lynette Marie Barron, who heads a group called Tough Love, and has twice successfully campaigned against bills to remove religious exemptions for vaccines in her state of Alabama.

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Barron has children with health problems. One of her daughters was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease which, according to Barron, occurred after she received her childhood vaccinations. Another girl was born with severe autism, which Barron attributes to a tetanus shot she received after cutting a finger during pregnancy.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Institute of Non-Governmental Medicine (now the National Academy of Medicine), the World Health Organization and various independent groups have repeatedly disputed these fears.

Even in the face of seemingly compelling evidence from front-line health workers around the world, Barron believes authorities “scare” the severity of the coronavirus in order to deprive people of their rights.

“I think there is a much larger program here,” she said. “We were going out, we were noisy. And now you can’t go anywhere and there is nothing you can do.”

Barron said the response in his community was “like a 50/50, which I did not expect”, some saying they were “so scared” by the virus that they would get a vaccine it was available, while others were “like me and say, I don’t care, I wouldn’t if you paid me a million dollars.”

Barron said the coronavirus even persuades some people of the merits of vaccine skepticism. “People have had enough and they will not stay long at home,” she said. “We are losing all of our livelihoods.”

People were “pretty panicked” about the speed of development of the vaccine, she said. Some pharmaceutical companies are already testing on humans, and some predict that a vaccine could be ready within a year. “They are rushing as they are … they have no idea of ​​their effects,” she said.

Paul Offit, an American pediatrician specializing in infectious diseases, regularly engages with the Barron community to explain the science of vaccination.

He told CNN that he understood the concerns about a precipitated vaccine and that “you can reasonably be concerned when things are done very quickly and under stress”. But he added, “We still care about vaccine safety. Everyone cares about vaccine safety, including pharmaceutical companies and the government and the medical community.”

Offit said anti-vaxxers are “conspiracy theorists” who “do not trust anyone” but if the virus remains a serious threat, “there is only one way to provide collective immunity to this virus and it’s through vaccination. “

He said that anti-vaxxers often told him that they just wanted to choose whether their family was vaccinated or not, but since the vaccines are not 100% effective and some cannot be vaccinated due to other problems of health, those who can be vaccinated had a responsibility to protect the community.

“Is it your inalienable right, as a US citizen or as a citizen of any country, to allow yourself or your child to be infected with a potentially fatal and transmissive disease?”

“I think the answer to this question is no.”

This story has been updated.

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