Out of sight of most mainstream media, the anti-vaccine crowd, once considered a fringe element in Canadian society, has become major player in opposing vaccine mandates and government intervention, in spreading misinformation and conspiracy theories and raising money for conservative politicians.
They have also tapped into the despair of many Canadians impacted by sky-high mortgage rates, rising food prices and a general feeling that politicians don’t really care about their welfare.
In short, the anti-vax movement has evolved into a potent political force.
They’ve done it by becoming good at spreading their voices on Facebook, TikTok, Instagram and other social media sites, convincing more and more parents against immunizing their children.
And their impact is obvious — COVID-19 vaccine rates are falling and there’s a small, but growing hesitancy to get children vaccinated against diseases such as smallpox, polio and measles. In Ontario, the latest figures indicate that so far this year only 13 per cent of the 1.8 million eligible residents and barely 40 per cent of seniors have received the updated COVID-19 vaccine.
...I’ve given up on the notion that facts will change an anti-vaxxer’s mind.
Instead, governments, health agencies and professional groups must take the lead in an all-out battle against anti-vaxxer propaganda and misinformation with renewed, strong public health messaging.
It was Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, who warned about “the bad guys,” cautioning that they “are winning, in part because health agencies either underestimate or deny the reach of anti-science forces and are ill-equipped to counter it.”
It’s a warning Canadians as well as American must take to heart because if we don’t take it seriously then the anti-vax movement will recruit more people, its base will expand and public confidence in vaccines will erode more than it has already.