Search This Blog

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Anti-Vaxxers, Russia, and National Security

David Klepper and Beatrice Dupuy at Associated Press:
A coronavirus vaccine is still months or years away, but groups that peddle misinformation about immunizations are already taking aim, potentially eroding confidence in what could be humanity’s best chance to defeat the virus.

In recent weeks, vaccine opponents have made several unsubstantiated claims, including allegations that vaccine trials will be dangerously rushed or that Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, is blocking cures to enrich vaccine makers. They’ve also falsely claimed that Microsoft founder Bill Gates wants to use a vaccine to inject microchips into people — or to cull 15% of the world’s population.
“The coronavirus has created this perfect storm of misinformation,” remarked David A. Broniatowski, an associate professor at George Washington University’s school of engineering and applied science who has published several studies on vaccine misinformation.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a vaccine critic who helped popularize unsubstantiated claims that vaccines can cause autism, said Gates’ work gives him “dictatorial control of global health policy.” Roger Stone, a former adviser to President Donald Trump, went further on a New York City radio show, saying Gates “and other globalists” are using the coronavirus “for mandatory vaccinations and microchipping people.”
The vaccine debate is fertile ground for groups looking to sow discord in the United States. Russia seized on it to create divisions before the 2016 U.S. election, and appears to be at it again.
A report from a European Union disinformation task force found numerous conspiracy theories in English-language Russian media, including state-run RT, claiming an eventual vaccine will be used to inject nanoparticles into people.
“When pro-Kremlin disinformation outlets spread anti-vaccine tropes, they become responsible for those who will hesitate to seek professional medical care,” the EU report said.
Jason Wilson at The Guardian:
America’s “anti-vaxxer movement” would pose a threat to national security in the event of a “pandemic with a novel organism”, an FBI-connected non-profit research group warned last year, just months before the global coronavirus pandemic began.

In a research paper put out by the little-known in-house journal of InfraGard – a national security group affiliated with the FBI – experts warned the US anti-vaccine movement would also be connected with “social media misinformation and propaganda campaigns” orchestrated by the Russian government.
Since the virus hit America, anti-vaccination activists and some sympathetic legislators around the country have led or participated in protests against stay-at-home orders designed to slow the spread of the deadly virus. More than 50,000 people have died in the US.
From "The Anti-Vaxxers Movement and National Security," by Mark Jarrett and Christine Sublett.
The modern anti-vaxxer movement, composed of people who falsely believe that vaccines are dangerous, started with the publication 20 years ago of a now-retracted study by David [sic, Andrew] Wakefield that erroneously linked the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine (MMR) to autism (McCoy 2015). And while the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has released studies that show no link between autism and vaccines or that an aggressive vaccination schedule for children causes autism, many people still believe that there is a connection and refuse to vaccinate their children. There has also been a rejection of scientific evidence in many communities that vaccines protect against disease, predating widespread use of the Internet and social media. Worldwide, there are many cases of leaders lying to their citizens about vaccine efficacy in populist movements, including by Italy’s Five Star Movement, which is now a part of that country’s government, and among the Taliban in Afghanistan. Healthcare workers involved in intelligence operations in locales including Pakistan has led to distrust of the services offered, including vaccines against deadly diseases like polio and measles (McNeil, Jr. 2012).