At NBC, Brandy Zadrozny and Erika Edwards report that antivaxxers are getting nastier and more aggressive.
Opposition to immunizations was once largely limited to online bullying, but now opponents are increasingly taking their harassment tactics into the real world: aggressively following legislators and doctors and, in some cases, using physical violence.
Online conspiracy theorist Austin Bennett livestreamed himself physically shoving the author of California's law, state Sen. Dr. Richard Pan. Bennett was later charged with a misdemeanor. The next month, Rebecca Dalelio, a participant at a protest at the California state Capitol, was charged with assault and vandalism when police say she threw a menstrual cup full of blood on lawmakers in the gallery.
Pan, who is also a pediatrician, suspects he was Dalelio's target.
"Everyone around me was hit" when the blood splattered on the legislative floor, he said.
Pan said anti-vaccine groups have stalked him at conferences, speaking engagements, even the March for Science in Washington.
As legislators, "we deal with all sorts of contentious issues — guns, abortions, lots of issues people are very passionate about," Pan said. "But the degree to which the anti-vaccine extremists takes this is in excess of any other group."
During an infectious diseases conference in New York in November, Dr. Peter Hotez was followed throughout a hotel by several aggressive anti-vaccination protesters who filmed while pelting him with questions predicated on vaccine hoaxes. Hotez is a vaccine scientist, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine, and author of the recent book, "Vaccines Did Not Cause Rachel’s Autism."
Hotez tweeted from the event, thanking hotel security for “getting me out safe.”
“I've been targeted by them for 20 years,” Hotez said. But the real-life harassment is part of “an awful new normal.”