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.
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
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.”
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.”
“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.”
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.
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.”
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.