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Report: Million-dollar donations fund anti-vaccination movement

In this image, Del Bigtree speaks to a crowd of reporters who hold up camera phones.
Anti-vaccine activist Del Bigtree speaks with reporters before an event on June 4. Photo:Yana Paskova/For The Washington Post via Getty Images

Hedge fund manager and philanthropist Bernard Selz and his wife have contributed more than $3 million to anti-vaccination movements since 2012, the Washington Post reports.

Why it matters: The current measles outbreak has been the worst in a century. The extremely contagious measles virus has crept back into American society primarily through communities that refuse vaccinations, experts have told Axios.

The backdrop: Bernard and Lisa Selz began supporting the anti-vaccination movement in 2012 with a $200,000 donation to Andrew Wakefield's legal fund, the Post reports.

  • Wakefield's study, published in 1998, linked the measles vaccine (MMR) and autism and is credited with launching the modern anti-vaccination movement. His study, which was debunked and found to be fraudulent, was retracted by The Lancet after publication. Wakefield was subsequently stripped of his medical license.

The numbers that matter: The Selz Foundation currently funds about 75% of the Informed Consent Action Network (ICAN) and donated $100,000 — 83% of the charity’s funding — the year it was established, per the Post.

  • Lisa Selz serves as the network's president, while its founder Del Bigtree "promotes the idea that government officials have colluded with the pharmaceutical industry to cover up grievous harms" from drugs found in vaccines, the Post reports.

The bottom line: ICAN is currently the best-funded organization that amplifies concerns about vaccines, largely thanks to the Selz's funding, the Post reports.

Go deeper: Measles outbreak this year has been worst of the century