Fueled by online 'advice,' anti-vaxxers' paranoia reaches dangerous lows

“They’re starting to target people, the messengers — nurses and doctors.”

NBC News

LOST ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 14:  Hundreds of anti-vaccination protesters gathered in Los Angeles, Cali...
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A startling new report published last Friday from NBC News details just how detached from reality many within the self-reinforcing anti-vax movement are becoming. Judging from discussions within multiple Facebook groups, as well as various other rightwing alternative social media and messaging services, vaccine skeptics and COVID-19 denialists are no longer urging people to avoid proven, safe inoculations — they’re going out of their way to outright avoid or even remove themselves and loved ones from hospitals and intensive care units. Their justification for doing this includes unhinged rumors of medical malpractice, including doctors and nurses intentionally letting patients die to receive some form of bonus payment.

“We were making headway, and now we’re just losing really, really badly. There’s something that’s happening on the internet, and it’s dramatically increasing steam,” Dr. Wes Ely, an ICU doctor and Vanderbilt University School of Medicine professor, recounted to NBC.

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Dewormers, iodine, and peroxide (oh my) — Much of the paranoia and medical distrust can be linked directly to prominent anti-vax influencers on messaging apps like Telegram, who detail steps for individuals to demand loved ones and family members be moved from ICU to hospice care, as well as dosage instructions for ivermectin, the horse dewormer many (Joe Rogan included) have promoted as an alternative treatment for COVID-19. Other “protocols” anti-vaxxers suggest range from patently false to downright dangerous, like gargling iodine as well as nebulizing and inhaling hydrogen peroxide.

Becoming dangerous for medical personnel — As if removing people from professional medical care in favor of huffing hydrogen peroxide wasn’t horrifying and delusional enough, the new NBC rundown also details just how physically dangerous it is becoming for many doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals. As members within the anti-vax movement drift further from reality, reinforcing one another with consistently mounting absurdist paranoia groupthink, medical physicians and others are being targeted as enemies for their perceived complicity in various vaccine conspiracies.

Instead of reflecting on their own decisions or the validity of their arguments, more and more anti-vaxxers are opting to see these doctors as the reason for the continued illness or even the deaths of COVID patients. “Violence and threats against medical professionals have recently been reported in Massachusetts, Texas, Georgia and Idaho,” notes NBC, adding that a medical center in Missouri recently introduced panic buttons on employee IDs because of the number of issues.