There Isn't a COVID-19 Vaccine Yet. But Some Are Already Skeptical About It

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May 18, 2020

Amid the American flags, “Make America Great Again” hats and “freedom is essential” posters appearing at recent protests against coronavirus lockdowns in Sacramento, Calif., another familiar slogan has materialized: “We do not consent.” It’s long been a popular rallying cry among antivaccine activists, who claim without evidence that vaccines cause autism or other conditions. As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, those activists have become intertwined with demonstrators who want businesses to reopen despite public health experts’ warnings.

Offline, the “anti-vaxxers” have done little beyond appear at sparsely-attended but widely-publicized rallies. But online, well-known antivaccine activists like Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Del Bigtree have been hard at work sowing doubt about the COVID-19 vaccine—a vaccine that does not yet exist, and likely will not exist for many months, if not longer. Yet their efforts seem to be working: approximately one in five Americans have already expressed unwillingness to get an eventual COVID-19 vaccine, according to an April 15 survey undertaken by Matt Motta, an assistant professor of political science at Oklahoma State University, and Kristin Lunz Trujillo, a University of Minnesota graduate student.

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