German anti-vaxxers obsessed with Bill Gates could mean Covid-19 will not be defeated
- Anti-vaxxers, conspiracy theorists, and activists with very different political views have come together to voice their anger at Germany's pandemic measures.
- While the protests still represent a minority of people, public health experts are becoming concerned that people are developing negative attitudes towards vaccines.
- Anger has also been directed at Microsoft founder Bill Gates as part of a bizarre conspiracy theory which claims he is responsible for the coronavirus pandemic.
- Scientists have said that about 70% of the world's population would need to be vaccinated to slow the spread of coronavirus.
- For more articles, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.
In the last few weeks, thousands of people have been gathering across European cities and several US states to protest lockdown restrictions that have put in place due to the coronavirus pandemic.
No place, however, has seen larger protests than Germany.
For nine consecutive weekends, the country has watched thousands of people protest lockdown measures in cities including Berlin, Munich, Stuttgart, Cologne, and Frankfurt, according to the Guardian.
At a rally in Germany's capital this weekend, police arrested around 60 people after they violated official social-distancing guidelines and attacked officials, Reuters reported.
German anti-lockdown protesters are a bizarre mix of people
Germany's protesters include conspiracy theorists, radical extremists, antisemites, football hooligans, and anti-vaxxers, who have united to accuse lawmakers of triggering unnecessary panic, among other things.
While they might be protesting together, those attending these rallies have drastically different world views and are there for a variety of reasons.
Some are accusing Chancellor Angela Merkel and pharmaceutical companies of inventing Covid-19 to impose dictator-ship like conditions on the country. In some instances, they referred to the social-distancing measures as a "social Holocaust."
Dagmar (who did not want to give her surname), a therapist from Bonn, told Business Insider: "So many of these laws were not debated in Parliament. They were passed without asking us, the people."
This is dictatorial, this is pure socialism. And most people, they just say they're happy with how it's going. Most Germans are quite happy with what is going on. Like a herd of sheep that are always running after someone."
Anger has also targeted at Microsoft founder Bill Gates as part of a bizarre conspiracy theory, which claims he is responsible for the coronavirus pandemic. The theory has gained traction among online fringe groups and conservative pundits.
The link is the billionaire has been a longtime supporter of vaccinations, and so far, Gates has donated $300 million (R5 billion) to coronavirus vaccine efforts, according to Vox.
According to data by media analysis group Zignal Labs, over 16,000 posts on Facebook related to Bill Gates and coronavirus vaccine misinformation have been liked and commented almost 900,000 times, the New York Times reported in April.
Another fantastical idea repeatedly voiced at these demonstrations is that a vaccination program is a cover for the government to plant computer chips into people to control them.
- "I don't want to get vaccinated"
Dagmar, 61, who did not attend any protests but is supportive of them, told Business Insider that she thinks the demonstrations are necessary and that the recent developments have made her change her mind about vaccinations.
"There's a wave of anger against Bill Gates here now as well. I always thought he was great, but sadly not anymore. The truth is, I don't want to get vaccinated, I don't want that poison in my body."
It's not researched, its too quick and it's absolute madness. No one can tell me to take a vaccine," Dagmar added.
"The media is saying that all the people in these demonstrations are all conspiracy theories or right-wing extremists. But there are also many scientists, experts, academics, and just normal people who are standing up to say that this doesn't make sense," she added.
While Dagmar still belongs to a minority, the number of people questioning whether to be vaccinated against the coronavirus is rising.
More people are unsure whether or not they should be vaccinated
A survey by the Vaccine Confidence Project, conducted when Europe was seeing a peak in infections in early April, shows that resistance to a possible vaccine is especially high in countries that have come out relatively unscathed from the pandemic, according to the Guardian.
A poll by the University of Erfurt, which was cited in the Guardian, found that the number of Germans who said they would take a Covid-19 vaccine had dropped from 79% in mid-April to 63% last week.
Across the Atlantic, only half of Americans (55%) say they would get vaccinated against the novel coronavirus, according to a recent survey by Yahoo News and YouGov.
In contrast, 26% said they were "unsure" about whether they would get a vaccination, while 19% said they do not plan to be vaccinated at all.
- "My friends and I are totally ashamed"
Public health experts are becoming increasingly fearful that as groups start pushing back against vaccines, the virus might never be controlled.
On May 13, the World Health Organisation's (WHO) Executive Director of Health Emergencies, Mike Ryan said in a press conference that the coronavirus "may never go away" if groups of anti-vaxxers oppose a vaccine.
"I don't think anyone can predict when or if this disease will disappear," said Ryan. "We do have one great hope if we do find a highly effective vaccine that we can distribute to everyone who needs it in the world. We may have a shot at eliminating this virus. But that vaccine will have to be available. It'll have to be highly effective. It will have to be made available to everyone, and we will have to use it," he added.
Scientists have also said that about 70% of the world's population would need to be vaccinated for there to be herd immunity to slow the spread of coronavirus, according to the Washington Post.
The protests come at a time, when researchers around the world are racing to develop a safe and effective vaccine against the coronavirus.
There's already been significant progress -with more than 100 research efforts currently underway - but no vaccine is ready for public deployment yet, and public health experts think that it will likely be some time before one is.
While much of Germany's attention has been focused on the anti-lockdown rallies, the protesters are still considered ta minority. In a recent poll cited in Die Welt, two-thirds of Germans think the coronavirus measures are "just right." 15% said they think the measures are too relaxed.
Tamara Goldfarb, a medical student who has been watching the protests closely, told Business Insider: "All that you hear about right now is that these protests are happening. My friends and I are totally ashamed."
I feel angry when I see these protests because the only thing we are expected to do at the moment is to stay at home and watch out for each other. But I must say that these protests don't represent who we are."
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