In The Politics of Autism, I analyze the discredited notion that vaccines cause autism. This bogus idea can hurt people by allowing diseases to spread. And among those diseases could be COVID-19.
Antivaxxers are sometimes violent, often abusive, and always wrong.
The wellness world’s entanglement with vaccine hesitancy dates back to well before the covid pandemic. For years, the anti-vaccine movement grew on various Facebook groups, freely spreading discredited theories that shots cause autism and other ailments, until the tech giant began limiting those group’s reach and ability to pay for promotional ads in 2019. Of course, not all yoga instructors and holistic healers are anti-vaxxers, and many actively promote vaccines and support medical science.
But tight links have developed between groups focused on anti-vaccine messages and those dedicated to parenting, alternative health practices and concerns over genetically modified food, according to a study published online in February from George Washington University’s Institute for Data, Democracy and Politics. The study identified a large cluster of Facebook groups that focused on posting and spreading covid-19 misinformation, including anti-vaccine messages. It then showed that links from those groups were often posted in wellness groups, and vice versa.
When the coronavirus vaccines started becoming available and millions of people turned to the Internet to find out more information, many found answers in the wellness groups and networks of influencers that were already a daily part of their social media diet.