Many anti-vaccination groups on Facebook have exploited the fragile nature of parents who have lost their children due to misinformation.
Several anti-vaccination groups on Facebook have been spreading misinformation about a myriad of health issues, including the ongoing flu season. Boasting over 139,000 members, 'Stop Mandatory Vaccination' is one of many groups that trade in false health information. Previously, members of this group have actively participated in spreading conspiracies regarding the outbreaks of preventable diseases. Regarding them as "hoaxes" perpetrated by the government, they have exploited the fragile nature of parents who have lost their children by suggesting that the government was at fault without any evidence, reports NBC News. They have also been successful in persuading several people to follow their anti-vaccination propaganda and have on several occasions propositioned advice on how to tackle flu.
The recent death of a preschool-aged boy from Colorado has been linked to the group where the mother had consulted the members about possible treatments for flu. According to the outlet, the mother also mentioned that she refused to fill a prescription provided by the boy's doctor. Although the 4-year-old boy had not been diagnosed, he was down with a fever and had also suffered a seizure, shared the mother on the group. Furthermore, she added how two of her four kids had been diagnosed with the flu and that their doctor had directed everyone in the house to take antiviral Tamiflu. "The doc prescribed Tamiflu I did not pick it up," she wrote according to the outlet.
Tamiflu is a common antiviral medication used to relieve the symptoms of flu while shortening the longevity of the illness. However, there are some side effects to it which worries everyone and not just the anti-vaccination community. Knowing that this is one of the worst flu seasons, parents are taking every precaution possible. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 68 children have already died from flu this season. Despite being aware of this situation, none of the members on the Facebook group advised the mother to seek medical attention. Ultimately, the boy had to be hospitalized where he tragically passed away four days later, according to the family's GoFundMe Page.
80,000 people died from the flu in America in 2017-2018. 62,000 people died in 2018-2019 8,200 died already in 2019-2020 flu season and is on track to be the deadliest year. I think we have shit we need to figure out in our country.https://t.co/MTN2gDXjxr— TTB (@Tone_Blanco925) January 30, 2020
In those deleted posts, the mother shared the natural remedies, including peppermint oil, Vitamin C and lavender, she was using to treat flu. When none of them worked she turned to this group for advice who recommended thyme, breastmilk, and elderberry, and none of them are medically recommended to treat this virus. This instance sheds light on how such Facebook groups spread wrong and potentially dangerous medical information. In a study conducted by the American Academy of Family Physicians, experts found that 59 percent of parents had missed their child's flu shots at least once due to "misinformation or misunderstanding."
When an anti-vaxxer spreads lies about vaccines, it costs people their life. And when Trump lies to the public, it doesn’t benefit truth seekers. Because it isn’t the truth. Spreading lies and disinformation isn’t beneficial to the exchange of ideas.— loganic (@bbyYoda_) February 7, 2020
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment also confirmed that the boy had died due to flu and revealed that they did not have records showing if the preschooler was vaccinated or not, reports KKTV 11. "While flu is circulating, it is not too late to get a flu shot, and we recommend everyone ages six months and older who has not had the yearly vaccine get it," said the department. Kolina Koltai, a researcher at the University of Texas at Austin, explained how certain Facebook groups have become the source of vaccine misinformation. "These communities have become a haven or resource for parents and for women to connect with others and ask for help," shared Koltai who has been examining the social media behavior of the anti-vaccination movement since 2015.
I have huge problem the anti-vaxxer community that present w lies, twisted information & conspiracy theories. It is dangerous & SoMe outlets like Facebook own part of it - they MUST not allow this sort of misinformation to propagate. It is a public health issue. It is child abuse— Darren Klugman (@DrKlugs) February 7, 2020
Facebook has taken measures to curb the spread of misinformation through groups like this by employing pop-up warnings for users searching for such content. "This is a tragedy and our thoughts are with his family and loved ones. We don’t want vaccine misinformation on Facebook, which is why we’re working hard to reduce it everywhere on the platform, including in private groups," said a Facebook spokesman via an email. However, they did not ban the group explaining that they were not comfortable with being the arbiter of truth.
#Immunisation against infectious diseases is one of the greatest successes in modern medicine. In spite of this, anti-vaxxer misinformation continues to thrive.— Alpharmaxim (@Alpharmaxim) February 6, 2020
We explore why in our new article: https://t.co/04wPrH6M2i#BelieveInSpecial #VaccinesWork #VaccineMisinformation