The Trump administration spent hundreds of thousands of dollars bailing out anti-vaxxer groups during the pandemic.
At the time of writing, the US has seen almost 24 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, with more than 397,000 deaths. As he prepares to launch into his presidency, Joe Biden announced a $20 billion national vaccination program.
However, some are against the concept of being vaccinated, whether it be for religious reasons, belief in conspiracy theories about their harm or supporting QAnon.
Two days ahead of being ousted from office, The Washington Post reports that more than $850,000 in loans from the federal Paycheck Protection Program has gone to five prominent anti-vaxxer groups throughout the pandemic.
As per the research of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, a UK-based anti-misinformation group which used public documents to find the payments, the following groups received loans: The National Vaccine Information Center; Mercola Com Health Resources LLC; Informed Consent Action Network; Children’s Health Defense Co.; and the Tenpenny Integrative Medical Center.
Imran Ahmed, chief executive of the advocacy firm, told the outlet: ‘Lending money to these organisations so they can prosper is a sickening use of taxpayer money. These groups are actively working to undermine the national COVID vaccination drive, which will create long-term health problems that are felt most acutely in minority communities and low-income neighbourhoods.’
Mercola, once dubbed a ‘superspreader’ of coronavirus misinformation, received the largest loan of $335,000. The Tenpenny group received the smallest loan of $72,000 – one of its Facebook pages was banned in December last year for spreading false information.
Robert Kennedy Jr., nephew of former president John F. Kennedy and founder of the Children’s Health Defense Co., says his group isn’t opposed to vaccines, but maintains interest in whether they’re safe, in addition to pushing the ‘great reset’ theory that ‘global elites’ like Bill Gates will take advantage of the pandemic to, essentially, rule the world.
Erica Dewald, advocacy director at Vaccinate Your Family, a a pro-vaccine nonprofit, said: ‘These organisations have been sowing the seeds of doubt about vaccines and public health for years. Now, in the middle of a pandemic, they are accepting funds for the chaos they’ve helped to create.’
World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus earlier described vaccine misinformation as ‘a major threat to global health that could reverse decades of progress made in tackling preventable diseases’, later collaborating with social media to crack down on dangerous lies and offer informative resources.
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