Are anti-vaxxers threatening physicians? A Belgian perspective

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic showed how anti-government, anti-science and anti-vaxxer rhetoric collide in an international movement against vaccination and lockdown measures. We assessed if Belgian physicians were threatened by anti-vaxxers using an online survey. We assessed what the impact was on their clinical activities and how they coped with anti-vaxxer rhetoric. N=283 physicians completed the survey. Since the COVID-19 pandemic started 11% of the respondents received threats from anti-vaxxers. Threats were distributed via social media (55%), personal email (35%), personal letter (16%), and a posted flyer (39%). Physicians that got media attention were four times more likely to be threatened. We conclude that a substantial proportion of physicians were threatened by anti-vaxxers. The impact of anti-vaxxer rhetoric on clinical practice is various: some physicians feel angry, others are tired, while some even are scared. Another group of physicians is still combative in convincing anti-vaxxers.

Keywords

Anti-vaxxer rhetoric, Physicians, Safety

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Authors

Jeroen Fastenaekels (Universiteit Antwerpen)
Aurelia Steyaert (Universiteit Antwerpen)
Harald De Cauwer (Ziekenhuis Geel)
Luc Mortelmans (Ziekenhuis Netwerk Antwerpen)
Francis Somville (Ziekenhuis Geel)

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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0

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