Story at a glance
- Misinformation about COVID-19 and the vaccine is threatening public health efforts to inoculate Americans against the virus.
- Several new and false conspiracy theories are emerging in anti-vaccine circles online.
- Those who oppose vaccines are also planning demonstrations in Los Angeles, according to reporting by the Daily Beast.
No, administering a vaccine does not make anyone a war criminal.
A new conspiracy theory circulating in anti-vaccination circles falsely claims that COVID-19 vaccinations violate the Nuremberg Code, which established protections against forced medical experiments in the wake of the Holocaust. It’s not true — COVID-19 vaccinations were tested before approval and are not mandatory — but it is gaining steam, reported The Daily Beast. The callback to the horrific acts committed by Nazi doctors is especially pernicious and could lead to violence against health care workers.
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“This idea that the medical establishment is evil, that they’re up to no good, is an old story, unfortunately,” David Broniatowski, an associate professor of engineering management at George Washington University, told The Daily Beast. “But taking it to the next level and saying, ‘They’re war criminals in violation of international law’ obviously takes that rhetoric and ups the ante. We have seen, building for years, death threats and threats of violence against physicians.”
The anti-vaccine movement has grown rapidly in recent years and was fully geared up to take advantage of the coronavirus pandemic. Misinformation about COVID-19 has been rampant online, despite efforts by major platforms to curb its spread, and has continued after vaccines became publicly available in December. And the effects can already be seen in the disproportionately low vaccination rates of Black and Indigenous communities, which have historical reasons to mistrust the medical community.
The movement is moving offline as well, with an anti-vaccine protest at Dodger Stadium temporarily cutting off access to a mass vaccination site earlier this month. California recently overtook New York for the most COVID-19 deaths, with numbers surging in Los Angeles and other parts of the state. Vaccine opponents have a long history in the state, where immunization rates at schools in affluent L.A. suburbs once dropped to 80 percent or lower.
The Daily Beast reported that a follow-up demonstration outside Dodger Stadium is planned for this Saturday, citing a message distributed through an anti-vaccination email list. Organizer Jason Lefkowitz told The Daily Beast the group did not plan to commit violence against health care workers or stop people from getting vaccines. Los Angeles Police are reportedly aware of the planned demonstration.
“Do I worry about actions against health care workers from within my group? Absolutely NOT!” he said in an email to the Daily Beast. “Am I worried about infiltrators? Yes. I’ve been communicating with the LAPD just as I had before the first event; and we are both going to be vigilant. I’ve informed my group that anyone we don’t know, we report immediately to the cops.”
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