Another day, and another conspiracy theory trends. From advocating for at-home COVID-19 remedies including drinking bleach, taking ivermectin, and gargling Betadine, anti-vaxxers have now moved on to advising COVID-19 deniers not to go to the hospital. I guess that’s one way to decrease hospital overcrowding, given that more than 90% of people currently hospitalized for COVID-19 are unvaccinated.

According to NBC News, anti-vaxx groups, including those on Facebook, are encouraging members not to go to the emergency room. Their reason? Conspiracy theories that claim doctors are preventing them from receiving a cure, or that they are being killed on purpose.

The irony is that when health officials begged these same people to stay home to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus they refused. Now that it is beneficial for them to seek medical attention, they are choosing to put themselves at greater risk by staying home and self-medicating.

“We were down to four Covid patients two months ago. In this surge, we’ve had 40 to 50 patients with Covid on four different ICU services, 97 percent of them unvaccinated,” Wes Ely, an ICU doctor and professor of medicine at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, told NBC News. “We were making headway, and now we’re just losing really, really badly. There’s something that’s happening on the internet, and it’s dramatically increasing steam.”

The deadly advice follows multiple reports of COVID-19 deniers dying in hospitals after refusing to get or advocating against the COVID-19 vaccine. While many of them regretted doing so, some stayed persistent and despite being on their deathbed still advocated against being vaccinated. Instead of receiving a free jab, these people would rather face death or harm themselves by taking unauthorized treatments. As one doctor told NBC News, patients in the hospital “just keep denying until they’re dying.”

Misinformation about the vaccine and conspiracy theories are running so deep that despite barely surviving the coronavirus, some people believe the vaccine holds a greater threat. While social media platforms are attempting to crack down on this spread of misinformation, anti-vaxx groups are going undercover and creating new, fake groups in order to continue spreading their lies.

According to Slate, prescriptions for drugs like ivermectin have seen a huge increase, despite some pharmacists refusing to fill them. Those who need them for its actual use—deworming animals—have faced a shortage due to the idea that it is a miracle COVID-19 cure.

“We remove content that attempts to buy, sell, or donate for Ivermectin. We also enforce against any account or group that violates our COVID-19 and vaccine policies, including claims that Ivermectin is a guaranteed cure or guaranteed prevention, and we don’t allow ads promoting Ivermectin as a treatment for COVID-19,” a Facebook spokesperson said.

According to a new report from The Wall Street Journal, of about 150,000 users posting in Facebook groups disabled for spreading COVID-19 misinformation, 5% produced half of the posts, and 1,400 invited half of the new members.

As a result of these at-home remedies, calls to poison control centers nationwide have increased at alarming rates. In some states, data has found more than 100% increases in calls from last year to this year. According to reports, calls first increased last year when Donald Trump suggested disinfectants be considered a possible treatment. At this time, who suggested Betadine as a cure and when is unclear, so many people assume it can be traced back to Trump’s comments.

“It’s vigilante medicine: medicine being practiced by laypeople who are reading groups created by other laypeople in echo chambers and silos that, likely, someone in the anti-vax movement is profiting from,” Harvard Medical School physician Aditi Nerurkar said. Nerurkar emphasized that misinformation from these groups on social media has contributed to patients opting for unproven cures rather than lifesaving care from doctors.

Facebook groups are not only encouraging violence against health care professionals but pushing for individuals not to go to the hospital. According to NBC News, many anti-vaxxers are using the encrypted messaging app Telegram and offering instructions on how to get family members released from the hospital. Viral videos have even been shared in which some allegedly successfully moved family members from hospitals to hospice care.

This Twitter thread sums up the entire phenomenon pretty well:


Who knows when anti-vaxxers will realize they are killing off their own. But until then, we can only hope the stories of all the famous anti-vaxxers dying and regretting their decisions to follow conspiracy theories make a difference.

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.


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