May 13, 2020 - Health

The viral spread of anti-vaccination sentiment

Bryan Walsh, author of Future

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.

Go deeper

Increased armed presence planned for D.C. tonight

Demonstrators stand around a fire during a protest near the White House in response to the killing of George Floyd. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Government officials say plans are in place for a significantly heavier armed presence on the streets of Washington, D.C. tonight in response to the increasingly violent protests linked to the death of George Floyd.

The big picture: Despite Trump's endorsement of Sen. Tom Cotton's (R-Ark.) idea of deploying active-duty military forces, including the 101st Airborne, there are no current plans to federalize forces to deal with riots across the country.

Updated 27 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 4 p.m. ET: 6,226,408 — Total deaths: 373,973 — Total recoveries — 2,672,161Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 4 p.m. ET: 1,799,747 — Total deaths: 104,702 — Total recoveries: 444,758 — Total tested: 16,936,891Map.
  3. Public health: Nearly 26,000 coronavirus deaths in nursing homes have been reported to federal health officials —Coronavirus looms over George Floyd protests across the country.
  4. Federal government: Trump lashes out at governors, calls for National Guard to "dominate" streets.
  5. World: Former FDA commissioner says "this is not the time" to cut ties with WHO.
  6. 🎧 Podcast: The virus didn't go away.

New York City to impose curfew amid ongoing protests

Photo: Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

New York City will be placed under curfew on Monday from 11pm until 5am Tuesday morning following days of protests over the death of George Floyd, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Monday.

The big picture: Demonstrations in New York, like in cities across the country, turned violent over the weekend as protesters clashed with police late into the night. The number of police officers on the streets of New York will double from 4,000 to 8,000.