Anti-Vaccination Groups Target Local Media After Social Media Crackdowns

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December 17, 2020

Friday night’s newscast on WFXG-TV in Augusta, Georgia, a Fox affiliate, featured some exciting news: The Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in the city would be among the first Veterans Affairs locations to receive initial doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine. Shots would be in arms this week.

But then, the story quickly pivoted to a small group of “concerned mothers” holding large black and red signs outside the hospital with messages familiar to people who have followed the anti-vaccination movement and its dangerously misleading position.

One young girl held up a sign with a message long since discredited by medical experts: “Vaccines can cause injury and death.” A woman interviewed for the segment falsely claimed the vaccine’s ingredients were unknown and that its makers “skipped over” steps in its trial. The station’s website also featured the segment, adding a directive to readers to find out more about the “known and unknown risks of the vaccine,” and a single link that took users to an error page.

The station had provided the kind of platform that public health professionals and misinformation experts dread.

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