Don’t get too excited if science comes up with a vaccine for COVID-19. In my little world, everyone I know hopes one will be found sooner rather than later. It’s the same on the social networks I use, but with this comes a health warning: my social networks are by and large an echo chamber, with most of the hate speech and bonkers conspiracy theories filtered out. An opinion poll carried out by YouGov suggests that even if an effective vaccine is discovered, it will not be effective because of the success of the anti-vax movement.
The poll revealed that 16% – one in six Britons – would ‘definitely’ refuse a vaccine. A similar number replied they would ‘probably’ refuse. In which case the ability of vaccines to contain the disease for good would be under major threat. Put simply, if enough people refused, we would we be stuck with COVID-19 forever and our new normal would simply become the normal.
Unsurprisingly, the anti-vaxxers are more likely to be those who get their news from social networks such as Facebook and You Tube. Almost 8 million people follow the 150 largest anti-vax channels and anyone who uses Facebook in particular will be wearily familiar with much of the nonsense propagated and shared as fact. The old adage that if it’s on the internet, it must be true, is sadly as true as ever.
The Trump era has merely accentuated the growth of ‘alternative facts’, as accepted and trusted sources of news become part of ‘fake news’, which is simply a way of turning truth on its head. It’s a twisted world of conspiracy theories, right wing nationalists and nut jobs, sometimes all at the same time. When the people are anxious and frightened, as many are today with COVID-19 still at large and a massive economic crash just around the corner, people can lash out and reach out for apparently simple solutions. The anti-vax movement is an integral part of that.
So, don’t get your hopes up too much about a vaccine for COVID-19. If it ever comes along – and that’s still a very big ‘if’ – the possibility is it won’t eliminate the virus because of the refusenik anti-vaxxers.
Years of being lied to by largely right wing politicians and businessmen has taken a toll on our country. Trust in traditional news outlets has diminished in certain groups of society because of populism offering bogus yet seemingly simple solutions to massively complex issues.
Finally, it’s important to remember this about conspiracy theories. In order to believe the outlandish claims of some that 9/11 was an inside job or planned by Mossad, or that MMR causes autism, you have to believe that every single politician, every scientist, every journalist and blogger and nation on the planet is in on the conspiracy. And, if you are former TV snooker presenter David Icke, imagine that the world is in the control of lizards. Bat shit crazy, yes, but this is the world in which we live, where lies are now the truth.
If the YouGov poll is even close to being accurate, we are in a lot of trouble.