Women hold up anti-vaccination signs at a protest in Washington state on May 13. Photo: Jason Redmond / AFP

Anti-vaccination movements could grow large enough to disrupt efforts to create public immunity when a vaccine is developed, according to new research.

Why it matters: Vaccines are only effective if enough people take them to develop herd immunity against a new infection. Anti-vaxxers, though small in number, have an online savvy that makes them powerful.

Driving the news: Last week, a YouTube video titled "Plandemic" promoting the baseless idea that a future coronavirus vaccine would kill millions of people received more than 8 million views before it was deleted by the platform.

  • Anti-vaxxers are increasingly showing up at protests against stay-at-home orders, according to reporting by the New York Times and NPR.

Though vast majorities of Americans still support vaccines, a recent Gallup survey found that number had fallen somewhat over the past two decades. Now a new analysis of Facebook pages published in Nature suggests that while the anti-vaccination presence online has fewer followers than the pro-vaccination side, its pages are more numerous and more often linked to by undecided Facebook pages.

  • The research suggests anti-vaxxers are proving more successful at reaching persuadable groups like parents than pro-vaxxers, who appear largely disconnected from public sentiment.
  • Anti-vaxxer pages are growing faster, and based off computer simulations, the researchers suggest anti-vaccination views might dominate Facebook within 10 years, according to Nature News.

What they're saying: "The anti-vaxxers have been practicing for this," tech columnist Kevin Roose wrote in the Times. "They are savvy media manipulators, effective communicators and experienced at exploiting the weaknesses of social media platforms."

The bottom line: As shocking as it might seem at a moment when the world desperately needs an effective COVID-19 vaccine, the pandemic seems poised to make the anti-vaccination movement even stronger.

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Updated Oct 7, 2020 - Health

World coronavirus updates

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Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

New Zealand now has active no coronavirus cases in the community after the final six people linked to the Auckland cluster recovered, the country's Health Ministry confirmed in an email Wednesday.

The big picture: The country's second outbreak won't officially be declared closed until there have been "no new cases for two incubation periods," the ministry said. Auckland will join the rest of NZ in enjoying no domestic restrictions from late Wednesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said, declaring that NZ had "beat the virus again."

What's needed to prevent a COVID-flu nightmare

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

With the flu season just around the corner, medical experts are worried about the likelihood of battling a COVID-19 pandemic and the influenza season at the same time.

The big picture: There are two main scenarios: a winter from hell with overwhelmed hospitals, unknown effects from virus co-infections, misdiagnoses resulting in wrong treatments, and a surge in deaths, or a flu season mitigated by COVID-19 measures and other steps people still have time to take.

Aug 20, 2020 - Health

Study: Kids may contribute to COVID-19 community spread more than previously thought

Photo: Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images

A study published Thursday found that children may play a larger role in the spread of COVID-19 than previously realized, intensifying concerns as schools grapple with whether to reopen.

Why it matters: The findings, published in the Journal of Pediatrics, coincide with changing scientific research analyzing children's ability to spread the virus, despite showing mild or no symptoms.