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
BlackburnNews.com – Six more COVID-19 recoveries in Lambton – BlackburnNews.com
Six more COVID-19 recoveries in Lambton
June 6, 2020 7:02am
Lambton Public Health is reporting six more COVID-19 recoveries.
The health unit reported Friday night that of 267 confirmed cases, 223 have now recovered.
The death toll remains unchanged since Tuesday at 24.
Lambton Public Health has now received the results from 7,861 tests, 96 per cent of which have been negative for COVID-19.
Bluewater Health reported Friday that 12 patients were in hospital confirmed to have the virus, and 26 were in hospital suspected of having it with tests pending.
Trucker brings in another case of COVID-19 as two new cases emerge Friday – Winnipeg Sun
Another case of COVID-19 in a truck driver, and one in a close household contact of that driver, were reported by public health officials on Friday.
The two new cases bring the province’s total to an even 300 since the outbreak began in early March. The cases are both from Winnipeg. One is in a man in his 30s and another in a man in his 20s.
Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief public health officer, said the trucker who tested positive had travelled outside of the province.
Other details were sparse, including if the driver had self-isolated or not.
“I don’t have a lot of details on that as of yet, the public health investigation is ongoing,” Roussin said.
Last week, two cases in truck drivers that had travelled into the U.S. for work were also reported.
Roussin said no new measures are going to be implemented in terms of testing truck drivers or requiring them to self-isolate upon return from international or domestic travel.
Currently, all truck drivers can access asymptomatic testing, but Roussin said they cannot disrupt supply chains into the province.
The province’s active caseload jumped to nine with the two new cases as no new recoveries were announced. There have been 284 total recoveries thus far.
The death toll in Manitoba remains at seven, and no one is in hospital at the moment.
The Cadham Provincial Laboratory processed 671 tests on Thursday, bringing the running total since early February to 47,372.
Meanwhile, changes to the hours of operation at community testing sites in Brandon, Portage la Prairie, Steinbach and Winkler, as well as at Thunderbird House in Winnipeg, come into effect this weekend.
Due to low patient volumes, these sites are now closed on Sundays.
KNOWLEDGE, ROAD TESTS RESUME
Manitoba Public Insurance is resuming knowledge tests for all licence classes and road test bookings for Class 1 licences effective immediately, a release said on Friday.
Customers are encouraged to book Class 5 and 6 knowledge tests online. For those who cannot book online, MPI is allowing customers who phone their Autopac agent to perform certain critical transactions over the phone or by email.
For Class 1 road tests, drivers will be required to provide and wear their own mask, be screened prior to the test and sanitize all touchpoints in their vehicle.
Knowledge test customers will be asked to arrive on-site 15 minutes prior to their appointment.
Ripples from coronavirus research scandal rocks global scientific community – RFI English
Issued on: 06/06/2020 – 12:02Modified: 06/06/2020 – 12:02
The first research scandal of the coronavirus pandemic has created unnecessary distraction around the politically divisive drug hydroxychloroquine, scientists say.
This as questions swirl around the tiny health care company at the center of the affair.
On Thursday, most of the authors of major studies that appeared in The Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) retracted their work.
The issued apologies, saying they could no longer vouch for their data after the firm that supplied it — Chicago-based Surgisphere — refused to be audited.
At any other time the matter might have led to hang-wringing within academia, but it has taken on a new dimension as the world grapples with a virus that has claimed some 400,000 lives.
Of particular interest was the paper in The Lancet that claimed to have analyzed the records of 96,032 patients admitted to 671 hospitals across six continents, finding that hydroxychloroquine showed no benefit and even increased the risk of death.
Its withdrawal is seen as a boost to backers of the decades-old anti-malarial drug, who include US President Donald Trump and his Brazilian counterpart Jair Bolsonaro.
“It’s very politicized — there is a group, probably not particularly small, who have learned to mistrust science and scientists, and this just feeds into that narrative,” Gabe Kelen, a professor of emergency medicine at Johns Hopkins University, told French new agency AFP.
This is despite the fact that even without The Lancet paper, evidence has been building against hydroxychloroquine’s use against COVID-19.
On Friday, results from a fourth randomized controlled trial — carefully designed human experiments considered the most robust form of clinical investigation — showed it had no impact against the virus.
The Lancet, which first published in 1823, is one of the world’s most trusted medical journals.
As a result, the hydroxychloroquine paper had an outsized impact: the World Health Organization, Britain and France all suspended ongoing clinical trials.
But things soon began unravelling after researchers noticed numerous red flags, from the huge number of patients involved to the unusual level of detail about the doses they had received.
Both The Lancet and the equally prestigious NEJM, which had published a paper on whether blood thinners elevated the risk of COVID-19 that relied on the same company, issued expressions of concern — before the authors themselves pulled both papers.
Role of Surgisphere
Surgisphere, founded in 2007 by vascular surgeon Sapan Desai, had refused to share data with third-party reviewers, saying it would violate privacy agreements with hospitals.
However, when science news site The Scientist began reaching out to hospitals throughout the US to ask whether they had participated, it found none.
Surgisphere’s internet profile has also raised numerous questions. Only a handful of employees could be found on LinkedIn, and most have now deactivated their accounts.
According to the Guardian newspaper, its employees included an adult model and until last week the contact page on its website redirected to a WordPress template for a cryptocurrency website, leaving it unclear how hospitals could have reached out to them.
Meanwhile Desai, who according to court records has three outstanding medical malpractice suits against him, has written extensively in the past on research misconduct.
“The most serious cause of fraud in medical publishing is manufactured data that authors use to support high impact conclusions,” he said in a 2013 paper.
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