Will coronavirus change anti-vaxxers’ minds?

Several sceptics have reconsidered position but tennis champ Novak Djokovic isn’t sure

(Image credit: Geoff Caddick/Getty Images)

The coronavirus pandemic is creating a dilemma for anti-vaccination campaigners, with several admitting that it is forcing them to reconsider their position.

As at least 20 coronavirus vaccines are developed around the world, CNN says that the Covid-19 pandemic is “something of a challenge to the anti-vaccine movement, many of whose members are strongly opposed to mandatory vaccines”.

Several “anti-vaxxers” have changed their mind, it adds. For instance, Haley Searcy, 26, from Florida, who was previously “fully anti-vax” says that “since Covid-19, I've seen firsthand what these diseases can do when they're not being fought with vaccines”.

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Vice reports that the pandemic has been a “wake-up call for some anti-vaxxers”. Charlene, a respiratory therapist from California, refused to vaccinate herself or her children. However, referring to the prospect of a vaccine against Covid-19, she said: “I am leaning toward getting it.”

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One anti-vaxxer unlikely to soften her stance is Meryl Dorey, co-leader of the Australian Vaccination Network. She has claimed that pandemic is “fake” has called on her thousands of followers to storm hospitals in protest at social distancing laws.

Meanwhile, the men’s tennis world number one Novak Djokovic revealed his opposition to vaccinations yesterday, saying: “I wouldn’t want to be forced by someone to take a vaccine”.

As leading figures in the sport argue that all players should be vaccinated when competition starts again, the Serbian added: “If it becomes compulsory, what will happen? I will have to make a decision.”

Opposition to vaccines rose because of a now-discredited study by British surgeon Andrew Wakefield that mistakenly linked autism to the MMR vaccine.

Although the study has been retracted its influence continues to be felt. A poll in the US found that only 66% of Americans would be willing to take a coronavirus vaccine.

Health authorities have noticed a pattern of declining uptake in recent years. In the UK, just 33 of 149 local authorities met their 95% vaccination target for diseases preventable by immunisation in 2018-2019, according to NHS data.

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