There is a new tactic being exploited by the anti-vax conspiracy theorists. They seize upon any news item about the ‘sudden death’ of someone (whether that person is a celebrity or not) to pump into action and spread rumors that the death was caused by the covid vaccines.
Results from 6-year-old Anastasia Weaver’s autopsy may take weeks. But online anti-vaccine activists needed only hours after her funeral this week to baselessly blame the COVID-19 vaccine.
A prolific Twitter account posted Anastasia’s name and smiling dance portrait in a tweet with a syringe emoji. A Facebook user messaged her mother, Jessica Day-Weaver, to call her a “murderer” for having her child vaccinated.
In reality, the Ohio kindergartner had experienced lifelong health problems since her premature birth, including epilepsy, asthma and frequent hospitalizations with respiratory viruses. “The doctors haven’t given us any information other than it was due to all of her chronic conditions. … There was never a thought that it could be from the vaccine,” Day-Weaver said of her daughter’s death.
But those facts didn’t matter online, where Anastasia was swiftly added to a growing list of hundreds of children, teens, athletes and celebrities whose unexpected deaths and injuries have been incorrectly blamed on COVID-19 shots. Using the hashtag #diedsuddenly, online conspiracy theorists have flooded social media with news reports, obituaries and GoFundMe pages in recent months, leaving grieving families to wrestle with the lies.
The use of “died suddenly” — or a misspelled version of it — has surged more than 740% in tweets about vaccines over the past two months compared with the two previous months, the media intelligence firm Zignal Labs found in an analysis conducted for The Associated Press. The phrase’s explosion began with the late November debut of an online “documentary” by the same name, giving power to what experts say is a new and damaging shorthand.
The “Died Suddenly” film features a montage of headlines found on Google to falsely suggest they prove that sudden deaths have “never happened like this until now.” The film has amassed more than 20 million views on an alternative video sharing website, and its companion Twitter account posts about more deaths and injuries daily.
This is despicable. The death of a loved one is already hard for people to deal with, especially when it is sudden and the person is young. To add to their grief by spreading falsehoods about them is unconscionable.