Return of the Anti-Vaxers
The Walrus|January/February 2021
To those who think vaccines are harmful, covid-19 is just another conspiracy
PAUL GALLANT

THE WOMAN who organized Vancouver’s antilockdown protests in April wasn’t worried about catching covid-19 from the small group that attended. That’s because Susan Standfield doesn’t think the virus is deadly for the average person. She holds this belief despite the fact that, by the day of her third protest, more than 150,000 people had died of the disease worldwide, eighty-six of them in British Columbia.

She says it’s a fabricated pandemic “that’s really orchestrated, in large part, by the pharmaceutical industry. The money that’s going to be made off this corona vaccine is going to be unbelievable.” Indeed, more than 200 vaccine candidates are now in development, produced by labs all over the world at a cost of billions of dollars. A fifty-two-year-old mother of two unvaccinated children, ages seven and nine, Standfield describes herself as a human rights activist and content producer. Her husband works in hotel finance. She says her family is struggling financially, which she blames on the government’s lockdown measures. A graduate of Queen’s University, where she studied political science, she’s been researching vaccines and Big Pharma for about two-and-a-half years and doesn’t trust any of the companies, much less any vaccine they produce, to protect people’s health.

“I’m not saying that there’s a whole bunch of vaccine shareholders sitting in a room wearing spooky costumes trying to kill people. It’s not like that. It’s just faulty, negligent industry practices,” she tells me. Billionaire Bill Gates, whose Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has invested in vaccines for numerous illnesses, has — Standfield continues — helped orchestrate the misinformation and may find himself indicted for crimes against humanity. Vaccine companies are unregulated. When a covid-19 vaccine comes to market, it could kill millions of people. Her claims are a lot to swallow and fit into her larger world view and beliefs about the human body free of medical interference. “The one thing the industry never talks about is the power of the body that is in perfect health,” Standfield says. “That body would be able to fight off infections because it has strong natural immunity.”

While surveys suggest most Canadians eagerly await a cure for covid-19, anti-vaxxers — or “vaccine- choice advocates,” as they like to call themselves — have been doubling down on the paranoiac rhetoric and conspiracy theories on Facebook pages and other social media. But the battleground is not just online. On July 6, 2020, Vaccine Choice Canada, one of Canada’s most prominent anti-vax groups, was among several plaintiffs that filed a legal action in the Ontario Superior Court against the Canadian government, among others, for its “draconian and unjustifiable measures taken in response to covid-19.” The lawsuit not only targets physical- distancing strategies — which have reduced the spread of the virus — but also promulgates the dangers of rushing a mandatory vaccine to market. “We want to have an evidence-based discussion in a court of law,” says Vaccine Choice Canada president Ted Kuntz.

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