Stressing freedom, vaccine opponents rebranding in virus era

October 22, 2020


Years before this year’s anti-mask and reopening demonstrations, vaccine opponents were working on reinventing their image around a rallying cry of civil liberties and medical freedom.

Now, boosted by the pandemic and the political climate, their rebranding is appealing to a different subset of society invested in civil liberties — and, some health officials say, undercutting public health efforts during a critical moment for vaccines.

A new analysis from several institutions has found that between 2009 to 2019, conversations around civil liberties in the anti-vaccine community had increased, with Facebook pages framing vaccines as an issue of values and civil rights.

Researchers reviewed over 200 Facebook pages supporting vaccine refusal for their paper published in the American Journal of Public Health this month. David A. Broniatowski, the paper’s lead author, said current protests against government lockdowns and masks took their pages directly from the anti-vaccine playbook.

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