As scientists around the world race to develop a vaccine for the coronavirus, the pandemic is also stoking a surge of activity among activists who argue that such a vaccine must be resisted.
Leaders of the anti-vaccination movement, who in recent years have seen their efforts frustrated as U.S. states have adopted stricter laws promoting the inoculation of children, are seizing on the anxiety and social unrest generated by the virus and the government attempts to contain it.
Anti-vaccination protesters have been a visible presence in recent weeks at rallies to end the lockdowns that continue in many states. But beyond the rallies and hand-painted signs, the movement’s chief organizers have launched a less confrontational but more far-reaching information campaign. Incorporating the rhetoric honed over years to sow fear of childhood vaccines, they maintain that mandated quarantines are new evidence of government officials’ zeal to control individual health-care choices.
“One of the main tenets of the marketing of mandatory vaccination has been fear. And never have we seen fear exploited in the way that we do now with the coronavirus infection,” Andrew Wakefield, the former British doctor and founder of the modern anti-vaccine movement, said at a three-day teleconference last week. “I think what we have reached is a situation where — I hope we’ve reached a situation where — the public are now sufficiently skeptical.”
As the pandemic kills nearly 2,000 people every day in the United States, Wakefield — whose medical license was revoked after he published a study, since identified as fraudulent, that linked autism with the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine — said the coronavirus is “no worse” than seasonal influenza…
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