While the United States spends billions on all efforts to develop a vaccine against coronavirusthere are fears that when he finally appears, he will not be enough to protect the population as a whole.
Even with a vaccine of months and possibly years, misinformation and conspiracy theories about vaccines for COVID-19 circling the net, potentially pushing people away from vaccinations when one or more become available.
One of the wildest is a false story about the alleged evil plan of Microsoft founder Bill Gates to use mass vaccinations from coronavirus to implant microchips to billions of people to track their movements.
In a press report announcing $ 1.6 billion in funding for immunization in poor countries, Gates said the misinformation about his work on vaccines was so strange that he had difficulty understanding it and categorically denied participating any conspiracy of microchips.
“In a way, it’s so weird that you almost want to see it as something funny, but it’s really not funny,” he said. “It’s almost hard to deny, because it’s so stupid or weird that even repeating it gives him confidence.”
Belief in conspiracy theory is also political in nature. In a May 20-21 poll conducted by Yahoo / YouGov, 44% of Republicans said they believed in a microchip conspiracy theory compared to 19% of Democrats.
Health officials are worried that if too many Americans refuse vaccination against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, the country may be in a position where the disease continues to spread widely, despite the availability of the vaccine.
The goal is to create herd immunity, in which a sufficient number of people are infected and develop immunity to the virus so that it can no longer spread freely. Scientists estimate that between 60 and 70% of the population should be protected in order to establish such immunity and stop the spread of COVID-19.
Some argue that simply releasing the virus will create sufficient immunity, but the United States has not yet reached that level. Even in New York, where COVID-19 infection was high, only 20% of those tested had antibodies against the virus, according to testing conducted by the state of New York.
A Yahoo News / YouGov survey last month showed that 19% of Americans said they would not be vaccinated with the vaccine, and 26% were not sure if they could do it. Health officials hope that when the vaccine is ready, the bait to restore normality will overcome vaccine fluctuations.
“This disease was so serious that I thought people taking anti-vaccines would be more muffled in their approach, but this is obviously not the case,” said William Schaffner, professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at the university Vanderbilt. in Nashville, Tennessee.
He sees three groups appearing when a vaccine becomes available.
“There will be people who immediately line up, just like they line up their children for the Salk vaccine in the days of polio. They will trust science, they will be optimistic, ”he said. “Then there will be others who back down and let it play a little before rolling up their sleeves.”
The latter group is already skeptical of vaccines and will actively oppose them.
The origin of the microchip myth may lie in the MIT study
Gates and his wife created the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000, focusing on health and education. The fund recently announced it will allocate $ 1.6 billion. The United States works to deliver vaccines to the world’s poorest countries through the Vaccine Alliance.
Gates also provides $ 100 million to purchase COVID-19 vaccines for low-income countries.
Perhaps the microchip conspiracy theory had its roots in a small office funded by his foundation and published in December.
It used technology developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to incorporate a small amount of dye with vaccines. The dye would be invisible to the naked eye, but it could be seen with a mobile phone application that emits infrared light onto the skin.
The paint will last up to five years and will allow healthcare providers to immediately find out if the child has been vaccinated or not, which can be difficult to do in developing countries.
A study explaining the technique was published in December in the journal Science Translational Medicine, but the technique was tested only on animals, never on children, and never applied.
It seems that the vaccine chip fantasy first appeared in late February or early March, said Dr. Saad Omer, a professor of infectious diseases at Yale School of Medicine, who is exploring ways to boost immunization rates.
In a recent media appeal, Gates said medical records that let health workers know which children received, for example, measles vaccines, and which still need them, are important for public health.
“This is not a chip,” he said.
The Perfect Storm for Conspiracies
Conspiracy theory does not surprise those who study the vaccine phenomenon. COVID-19 brings all the triggers together, said Matthew Hornsey, a social psychologist at the University of Queensland in Australia who studies processes that affect people who accept or decline scientific posts.
“This is scary; it is hard to understand; Governments must limit personal freedom, and this will lead to mass vaccinations. This is the perfect storm for conspiracy theory, ”he said.
The combination of opponents of vaccination and the gloomy world of conspiracy theories is toxic.
“Here people have one problem for which they rallied; they do not trust vaccines. Conspiracy theories are then selectively accepted to justify this feeling, ”he said. – That’s why people are ready to believe in ideas that seem strange and ridiculous to us. They want to believe it, so they set a very low standard of evidence. “
Since the United States is investing literally billions of dollars in developing vaccines against coronavirus so that life can return to normal, it will be crucial to promote a social climate where vaccination is considered the norm, said Omer from Yale University.
According to him, the best way to do this is not to argue, but to set an example by telling friends and family that you are going to be vaccinated.
“Make sure people know that this is a social norm, but don’t insist on it too much,” he said. “If yelling at people is a good idea, teens always win their arguments.”
This article originally appeared in the USA TODAY: Coronavirus vaccine: Bill Gates conspiracy theory is false