BY NEVANJI MADANHIRE
THE anti-vaccination movement has become a billion-dollar industry and may soon catch up with other sick industries such as drug trafficking now estimated at $32 billion annually.
The Covid-19 anti-vaccination movement is driven by people who have been dubbed “anti-vaxxers”. These are people who, for a variety of reasons, disagree that vaccines are important in fighting contagious diseases. Some think vaccines infringe on their human rights while others believe in conspiracy theories that claim vaccines have sinister agendas such as medical racism.
Anti-vaxxers are a minority group but, like drug lords and human trafficking godfathers, they are becoming increasing more powerful. They are not your ordinary Jack and Jill but real sophisticated people. To illustrate this point one of the best known anti-vaxxers is a Kennedy.
Robert Francis Kennedy jr (RFKjr) has shot his way to notoriety by becoming one of the most prominent anti-vaxxers. Last month he produced an hour long documentary titled “Medical Racism: The New Apartheid”. In it he peddles falsehoods and misinformation about Covid-19 vaccines aimed at discouraging Black people from being vaccinated. Without offering scientific evidence he cites “historical examples of ethical failures in medicine, misrepresenting various scientific studies, and suggesting that the medical establishment can’t be trusted.”
This week RFKjr published a trailer of the video and within 24 hours it had clocked 160 000 views on Instagram. Although Instagram blocked his account, (Facebook has not blocked him) the potential to earn money is immense.. Advertisers crave such crowd-pulling accounts and social media platforms also make a killing. This is how this new industry is growing so quickly.
Another illustration of how sophisticated the anti-vaccination lobby is, is the work of America’s Frontline Doctors, an American right-wing political organisation founded by Simone Gold and promoted by the Tea Party Patriots. It has opposed lockdowns and social distancing mandates during the Covid-19 pandemic by citing alleged and unapproved treatments for Covid-19. It has addressed numerous press conferences denouncing vaccination. Their messages have spread like wildfire on the internet.
In Zimbabwe where WhatsApp is the most used social media platform the America’s Frontline Doctors’ conspiracies have been uploaded on the app and have gone viral partly explaining the vaccine hesitancy and scepticism in the country.
The media has its work cut out. It has to spread the correct messages exhorting the benefits of vaccination especially that vaccines are one of the safest and most effective health interventions available for fighting infectious diseases. They have been fundamental in the eradication and control of many formerly devastating illnesses, such as polio. The resurgence of measles, especially in the US, has been attributed to the anti-vaccination movement.