NEW YORK — A coronavirus vaccine is still months or years away, but groups that peddle misinformation about immunizations are already taking aim, potentially eroding confidence in what could be humanity’s best chance to defeat the virus.
In recent weeks, vaccine opponents have made several unsubstantiated claims, including allegations that vaccine trials will be dangerously rushed or that Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, is blocking cures to enrich vaccine makers. They’ve also falsely claimed that Microsoft founder Bill Gates wants to use a vaccine to inject microchips into people — or to cull 15% of the world’s population.
Vaccine opponents in the U.S. have been around for a long time. Their claims range from relatively modest safety concerns about specific vaccines or the risk of side effects to conspiracy theories that border on the bizarre.
The movement is receiving renewed attention, especially as it aligns itself with groups loudly protesting restrictions on daily life aimed at controlling the spread of the virus. Health professionals say vaccine misinformation could have lethal consequences if it leads people to opt for bogus cures instead.
“Only a coronavirus vaccine can truly protect us from future outbreaks,” said Dr. Scott Ratzan, a physician and medical misinformation expert at the City University of New York and Columbia University. “But what if the effort succeeds and large numbers of people decide not to vaccinate themselves or their children?”
While vaccines for diseases such as polio, smallpox and measles have benefited millions, some skeptics reject the science, citing a distrust of modern medicine and government. Others say mandatory vaccine requirements violate their religious freedom.
Rita Palma, the leader of the anti-vaccine group in Long Island called My Kids, My Choice, is among those who say their families won’t get the coronavirus vaccine.
“Many of us are anxiety stricken at the thought of being forced to get a vaccine,” Palma said. “I will never choose to have a COVID-19 vaccine. I don’t want the government forcing it on my community or my family.”
From the outset of the coronavirus pandemic, vaccine skeptics have tailored several long-standing claims about vaccine safety to fit the current outbreak. When the first U.S. case was announced in January, some alleged the coronavirus was manufactured and that patents for it could be found online.
Thousands of deaths later, vaccine opponents are endorsing unapproved treatments, second-guessing medical experts and pushing fears about mandatory vaccinations. They’ve also latched onto protests against stay-at-home orders in the U.S.
“The coronavirus has created this perfect storm of misinformation,” remarked David A. Broniatowski, an associate professor at George Washington University’s school of engineering and applied science who has published several studies on vaccine misinformation.
Last week, an anti-vaccine activist was arrested in Idaho after repeatedly refusing police orders to leave a playground closed because of the pandemic. The woman, who was there with other families, is affiliated with two groups that protested at the Idaho Statehouse against stay-at-home orders.
Facebook groups formed to organize the protests have been peppered with vaccine hoaxes and myths. Perhaps no one plays a bigger role in the conspiracy theories than Gates, who is funding vaccine research. The online movement has centred concerns around a COVID-19 vaccine on false claims that Gates is planning to microchip people with the vaccine or use it to reduce the world’s population.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a vaccine critic who helped popularize unsubstantiated claims that vaccines can cause autism, said Gates’ work gives him “dictatorial control of global health policy.” Roger Stone, a former adviser to President Donald Trump, went further on a New York City radio show, saying Gates “and other globalists” are using the coronavirus “for mandatory vaccinations and microchipping people.”
Such wild theories can have real-world effects. False rumours that Gates hoped to test an experimental vaccine in South Africa became mainstream after a news site erroneously reported the claim. One of the country’s political parties then sent a letter to President Cyril Rampahosa demanding answers about “deals” struck with Gates.
In fact, Gates and his wife are financing a vaccine trial in Philadelphia and Kansas City, Missouri, not South Africa. He also suggested creating a database of people immune to the virus, not implanting microchips.
On Monday, during remarks recognizing World Immunization Week, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus criticized vaccine skeptics for spreading misinformation at a time when many families are delaying or skipping routine childhood immunizations because they’re afraid of COVID-19 exposure in doctors’ offices.
“Myths and misinformation about vaccines are adding fuel to the fire,” he said.
Health experts have repeatedly said there is no evidence the coronavirus was intentionally created or spread. They also insist that vaccines are not only safe, but essential to global health.
“Vaccine researchers and anyone who is a vaccine advocate cares deeply about vaccine safety,” said Dr. Paul Offit, a Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia physician and co-inventor of a vaccine for rotavirus, which kills hundreds of thousands of children annually.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that clear up in two to three weeks. But it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death for some people, especially older adults and people with existing health problems.
The vaccine debate is fertile ground for groups looking to sow discord in the United States. Russia seized on it to create divisions before the 2016 U.S. election, and appears to be at it again.
A report from a European Union disinformation task force found numerous conspiracy theories in English-language Russian media, including state-run RT, claiming an eventual vaccine will be used to inject nanoparticles into people.
“When pro-Kremlin disinformation outlets spread anti-vaccine tropes, they become responsible for those who will hesitate to seek professional medical care,” the EU report said.
David Klepper And Beatrice Dupuy, The Associated Press
Nova Scotia reports no new cases of COVID-19 for first time since March – Brandon Sun
HALIFAX – Nova Scotia increased its social gathering limit on Friday as the province reported no new cases of COVID-19 for the first time since its initial infections were identified in mid-March.
Dr. Robert Strang, the chief medical officer of health, called the development a “significant and encouraging milestone” in a province that has seen a continuing downward trend in new cases over recent weeks.
It kept the total number of confirmed cases at 1,055, including 978 people who have recovered from the virus. Eight people are currently in hospital and three of them are in intensive care.
“It hasn’t been easy but we are seeing positive results,” said Strang.
Nova Scotia announced more details of a reopening plan set for next Friday, even as neighbouring New Brunswick put the brakes on expanding the current phase of its plan. That province is dealing with a growing cluster of new cases in the Campbellton area, allegedly caused by a health-care worker who returned from Quebec and didn’t self-isolate.
Strang was asked about what lessons Nova Scotia could take from the Campbellton outbreak.
“The message in that is really about the importance of self-isolation when you cross borders,” he said. “What it shows us is the importance of very closely monitoring our borders. We need to be very thoughtful and careful about how we lift those border restrictions.”
Premier Stephen McNeil announced a new gathering limit of 10 people effective immediately — a doubling from a limit of five that was imposed when health restrictions were put in place in late March.
Physical distancing of two metres would still be required, except among members of the same household or family “bubble.” The limit is the same indoors and outdoors, with exceptions for outdoor weddings and funeral services which can have 15 people.
Strang clarified that when it comes to weddings, that limit of 15 would have to include photographers and caterers if that’s what couples wanted in their ceremonies.
He said the gathering limit also applies to arts and culture activities such as theatre performances and dance recitals, faith gatherings, and sports and physical activity. Businesses such as theatres, concerts, festivals and sporting activities would also have to adhere to the 10-person limit.
“We are watching our epidemiology and will consider expanding the way people can have close social interaction when we see how this first stage in the reopening is going,” said Strang. “It’s very important that we don’t introduce too much risk of COVID-19 at any one time and we have the capacity to monitor the effect of any steps.”
McNeil said that private campgrounds would also be allowed to open, but would only operate at 50 per cent capacity and must ensure public health protocols are followed, including adequate distancing between campsites.
Provincial campgrounds are scheduled to open June 15 at reduced capacity to ensure a minimum of six metres between individual sites.
The latest measures came two days after McNeil announced that most businesses required to close under a public health order in late March would be allowed to open next Friday, provided they are ready with a plan that follows physical distancing protocols.
The list of businesses includes bars and restaurant dining rooms, hair salons, barber shops, gyms and yoga studios, among others.
Some health providers would also be allowed to reopen, including dentistry, optometry, chiropractic and physiotherapy offices. Veterinary services can also operate along with some unregulated professions, such as massage therapy, podiatry and naturopathy.
Earlier Friday, the province announced it would add 23 new long-term care beds because of a need resulting from some facilities slowing or stopping admissions during the pandemic.
It said it is entering into an agreement with Shannex RLC Ltd. to convert a floor at the Caritas Residence, a private assisted-living home in Bedford, N.S., into nursing home beds.
Residents would be able to move into the facility in early June and will be tested for the virus before being admitted.
According to the government, there are 132-long term care facilities in Nova Scotia.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 29, 2020.
Nova Scotia reports 1 more death at Northwood, 1 new case of coronavrius – Globalnews.ca
“Our thoughts are with those who are mourning at this time. I recognize how difficult it can be for family and friends to grieve with restrictions in place,” said Premier Stephen McNeil, in a press release.“As these restrictions are loosened over the next week, I ask all Nova Scotians to continue to respect the rules and follow public health advice.”As of Saturday, Nova Scotia confirmed one new case of novel coronavirus, bringing the total number of cases to 1,056.“This summer will look very different. I know there are things people want to do and can’t,” said Dr. Robert Strang, Nova Scotia’s chief medical officer of health.READ MORE: Nova Scotia to allow 10-person gatherings as no new coronavirus cases announced Friday“I continue to ask for people’s patience, understanding and cooperation. No matter what you do, please respect the rules – practise good hygiene, stay home if you’re feeling unwell, limit large groups and wear non-medical masks when and where appropriate.”The province said the QEII Health Sciences Centre’s microbiology lab completed 694 Nova Scotia tests on May 29 and is operating 24-hours.To date, Nova Scotia has 41,391 negative test results, 1,056 positive COVID-19 test results and 60 deaths.
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Newswatch COVID-19 Digest: Saturday May 30, 2020 – Cornwall Newswatch – Cornwall Newswatch
Here are the latest local, regional and national headlines on the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) for Saturday, May 30, 2020:
- There have been 27,210 confirmed cases of COVID-19 across Ontario, an increase of 344 cases (or 1.3 per cent) from the previous day. There are 20,983 people recovered from the virus while 2,230 people have died. The number of Ontario people tested is 680,687 of which 13,351 have pending results.
- Canada’s coronavirus case total is 89,418. The country has 6,979 deaths from the virus – 164 in British Columbia, 143 in Alberta, 10 in Saskatchewan, seven in Manitoba, 2,230 in Ontario, 4,363 in Quebec, three in Newfoundland & Labrador and 59 in Nova Scotia.
- A person who has been weeks in an Ottawa intensive care unit has been released and is on the regular floor of the hospital. There are still a total of three in hospital with one other person still in ICU. The number of confirmed cases stayed steady Friday at 147 with 11 deaths and 92 recoveries. Local testing jumped by 273 on Friday to 8,378 tests. The breakdown of cases are 15 in Cornwall (15 resolved), 25 in SD&G (20 resolved) and 107 in Prescott-Russell (57 resolved). There are two active nursing home outbreaks.
- The Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit added another case Friday to a total of 342 confirmed cases. There was also another death bringing that total to 50. Ninety per cent of COVID-19 cases (264) have recovered.
- Officials with Public Health Ontario outlined their next phase of novel coronavirus testing across Ontario. Testing will concentrate on first responders, more essential workers and those in prison settings. It will also concentrate on hot spot areas, where Ontario Public Health would send a strike team into a business, for example, where there’s increased COVID-19 activity.
- Premier Doug Ford says the government is looking at a regional reopening of the economy. “It’s an option that we’re looking at. Everything is on the table.” Ford says they are getting a better picture of the spread of the disease through more testing and mobile testing units.
- New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Friday that the North Country and Central New York could move to the next phase – phase two – of reopening. That includes St. Lawrence County (home to Massena, Potsdam and Canton) and Franklin County (home to Malone). New York’s phase two includes reopening office-based business, in-store retail shopping, and limited barber and hairdressing services. St. Lawrence County has had 201 positive cases to date, which 183 recovered and two deaths.
- The Children’s Treatment Center will resume in-person counselling with children and parents on Monday, June 8. The center says it will “implement all necessary measures” to provide safety for children, parents and staff members. Executive Director Robert Smith reduced his counselling hours and the center has hired another counsellor, Ashley Dicintio, who previously had a private practice in Cornwall and works at the Ottawa Carleton Detention Center as a women’s social worker.
- A ban on cruise ships entering Canadian waters has been extended until October. The ban was to expire on July 1.
- The federal government has rolled out an additional $650 million for First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities across Canada. It will go to public health, income assistance and shelters for women and children. That’s in addition to the $305 million already promised.
- A health care worker in New Brunswick has been suspended after travelling to Quebec and not self-quarantining after returning, choosing instead to go to work. There’s now an outbreak in the Campbellton area with at least six new cases, including two in ICU. The RCMP is investigating.
Have a story or news release related to COVID-19? Send it along for possible inclusion in a future digest on Cornwall Newswatch. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Please put “COVID-19 Digest” in the subject line.
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