Liberal, educated... and anti-vaxxer: pandemic births new vaccine doubters

August 25, 2020

Greer McVay insists she is “not an anti-vaxxer — not at all.” She is up-to-date with her own immunizations and had her son vaccinated when he was a child. But she fears the development of a vaccine for the coronavirus is being dangerously rushed, in part to improve Donald Trump’s prospects ahead of the presidential election in November.

“This situation is different, because of the politics that have been injected into the process and the speed at which they’re developing the vaccines,” says McVay, a communications consultant from California and a supporter of the Democratic Party. “Frankly, I don’t trust this president. It just gives me pause.” 

McVay, 53, is one of a growing number of “vaccine hesitant” Americans who have not previously identified with the anti-vaxxer movement, which has traditionally been dominated by libertarian Republicans and those on the left who preach the benefits of alternative medicine over pharmaceuticals. “I don’t fall into either category,” she says...

Madej is right about one thing: The battle to shape public opinion on vaccines will be won or lost online, says Neil Johnson, a professor of physics at George Washington University. 

Johnson recently published a paper in Nature concluding that the anti-vaccination movement was winning the online information war because it was organized around smaller “clusters” that were able to infiltrate groups of undecided people. He says the movement has its roots in the anti-vaccination sentiment toward measles jabs that has surfaced in recent years, and which has been blamed for a spate of outbreaks.

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