Sarah Ostrowski was convinced to get vaccinated after reading numerous stories on Reddit’s r / HermanCain. Prize for unvaccinated people who die of Covid-19.
Courtesy of Sarah Ostrowski
For most of the pandemic, Sarah Ostrowski went to work at her full-time gas station in Indiana, accepting the risk of not being vaccinated. Many times a day he interacted with clients and even cleaned the unprotected public restroom beyond his mask.
Ostrowski doesn’t think Covid-19 is a hoax. She takes it seriously. But he had reasons not to receive the shot.
She was concerned about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine causing blood clots, as had been reported in a few recipients. He doubted the mRNA technology used to develop the Modern and Pfizer vaccines. He was also worried about possible side effects that would force him to take time off.
And then there were his parents, who were constantly spitting out anti-vaccine rhetoric, warning him that he would die if he got shot.
“You care what your parents think of you and whether or not they believe you’re making the right decision or the right decision,” Ostrowski said. “It’s almost like a kind of group thinking. Even though you know the answer is wrong, I’ll still say it just to fit in or conform.”
Everything changed last month. Ostrowski, who regularly posts his feed on the social networking site Reddit, stumbled upon the r / HermanCainAward forum. It is an unfortunate section of the application dedicated to showing visitors the real consequences of coronavirus vaccination and capture.
Reddit users post screenshots several times a day of people previously posting comments and anti-vaccine content on Facebook only to end up getting sick of Covid-19 before they die. The name of the subreddit refers to former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain, who died of Covid-19 in July 2020, after refusing to wear a mask and attending a Donald Trump re-election campaign event.
“Candidates have made public statements of their anti-mask, anti-vax or Covid-hoax opinions, followed by admission to the hospital by Covid,” the page description says. “The award is given when the candidate is released from his earthly shackles.”
Since the subreddit was created in September 2020, it has expanded to more than 375,000 members, with major publications generating thousands of user interactions. According to FrontPageMetrics.com, the forum has been the tenth fastest growing subreddit in the last 30 days, tracking Reddit usage.
An entry this week included a screenshot of an August 12 post from a man who sent a meme to his followers: “I heard the government is putting tabs inside people. I hope to get Doritos “.
A friend of the man later wrote in his feed asking for prayers because the man and his wife had been hospitalized with Covid-19. The wife had to receive an emergency cesarean section to give birth to her baby more than ten weeks earlier.
The following message came from the man’s wife: “The world has today lost an incredible father, husband, brother, son and friend. My heart is in a million pieces.”
“I had just finished playing”
Ostrowki said he had finally seen enough. On September 12 he received his first shot.
“If Dad thinks I’m an idiot because I fell into government and I’m a sheep, so be it,” Ostrowski said. “I clean a public bathroom for the love of Christ. I deal with some very rude things. So no, I’m just playing.”
During the pandemic, social media sites became a haven for misinformation and conspiracy theories, whether related to masks, vaccines, or advice from public health experts. Facebook, in particular, has struggled to remove fake content, as users share erroneous information even in the comments section of posts from authorized sources, according to the company’s internal documents reviewed last month by the Wall Street Journal.
With multiple vaccines available for months for anyone 12 years of age or older, resistance to vaccines has become the central challenge in ending Covid-19. President Joe Biden said last month, “This is an ongoing pandemic of unvaccinated people.”
According to an academic study published in May, only 57% of the country has been vaccinated, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and 22% of Americans identify as anti-vaxxers. Experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, a White House coronavirus adviser, has said the U.S. will need up to 90 percent of the population to be vaccinated to achieve herd immunity.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks to South Lawn reporters when he returns to the White House in Washington, DC on October 5, 2021.
Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images
Since it hit the United States in March 2020, more than 722,000 Americans have died from Covid-19. Ostrowski said the terrible death stories among the unvaccinated have had a huge impact on her.
“It really touches home when you literally see yourself in these people,” he said.
Reddit still has a lot of anti-vaccine content on its site, reaching over 50 million daily active users. As it prepares to go public, Reddit recently took steps to remove several subreddits that were used to share misinformation. But there are still numerous subreddits that appear in this content with names like r / Conservative, r / Ivermectin ir / FauciForPrison.
A Reddit spokesman said the company has policies in place to remove inaccurate posts about Covid-19 vaccines.
“Our content policy prohibits many types of harmful content, including health-related misinformation and other forms of manipulated content,” the Reddit spokesman said in a statement. “We’ve had experienced teams dedicated to detecting and acting with content that violates our policies. As a result of those teams’ efforts, we remove 99% of content that violates content before a user sees it.”
Chana Joly visits r / HermanCainAward regularly. He said he does it for his father.
Despite losing his brother to Covid-19 in January, Joly’s father has refused to get vaccinated. He said it has been radicalized in recent years for misinformation and anti-vaccine conspiracies.
“I think he’s especially sad with my dad because he’s an educated person,” Joly said. “He’s not unintelligent. He just thinks people shouldn’t do it.”
Joly scrolls through the Reddit forum to gather stories she can send to her father. When she defends herself and disputes the posts she shares, she tells him to prove her wrong.
“You find me these stories on social media,” Joly said, describing what she tells her father. “These people die with their own words for the vaccine. Find me these stories and show me as many of these as I’m showing you. Or even a tenth.”
Reddit user Chana Joly visits r / HermanCainAward to gather stories of real anti-vaxx people dying from Covid-19 that he can send to his father, who has not yet been vaccinated.
Courtesy of Chana Joly
Houston Reddit Rockets9495 user is an emergency physician. Use r / HermanCainAward for anecdotes you can share with nurses, technicians, and patients who may be on the fence.
He agreed to speak to CNBC, but declined to publicly reveal his name to maintain his privacy. He showed his hospital badge on CNBC.
“Misinformation is so damn dangerous, especially after this last president,” the doctor said. “This isn’t a game. It’s not a joke. You don’t live in a Tom Clancy novel. That’s real.”
He said scientific evidence has not been effective in trying to convince people about the safety of vaccines.
“But this seemingly weaker test (word of mouth, anecdotal‘ All these people are dying ’) seems to hit people a lot harder,” the doctor said.
A different prize
The subreddit also includes some stories with a happy ending. These messages are labeled IPA, or Immunized to Prevent Awards, and are delivered to users who display images of their vaccine vaccination cards on the channel as proof that they have received their photos.
A Reddit user with the handle lovelylady227 got the tag.
“This subreddit was what fully convinced me, after going back and forth,” he wrote on Sept. 22, adding that it is “officially out of order” for the award that gave the channel its name.
His post was tagged with the IPA tag and received over 7,000 positive votes and 380 comments. He posted his vaccination card on Reddit after receiving his second dose.
Lovelylady227 is a woman named Hannah. He asked that only his first name be published because he has not communicated his decision to the family against the vaccine.
Hannah received her first dose of Moderna vaccine in August, but was afraid of receiving the second vaccine after hearing from her parents and sister, who works in health care, about her concerns about vaccines. . Family members would be shown anti-vaccine content on their phones and believe people who are vaccinated are shedding the virus.
Hannah went to Reddit in search of information. He started ar / CovidVaccine. There he found numerous posts of people complaining about the side effects they had experienced after receiving their second shots. Some described tremors and others said they had suffered heart attacks.
“It scared me,” he said.
Hannah’s continued browsing on Reddit finally brought her ar / HermanCainAward. What he found caught his eye.
She read stories that start with people making fun of the vaccine and end with her spouse asking friends to contribute to a GoFundMe page because of hospital bills or funeral expenses.
“You don’t really realize how bad it is to be in the hospital with Covid until you see these people who somehow give you a game by game,” Hannah said. “When you get these first-hand experiences from a Facebook profile and you see people experiencing grief, it’s like‘ Oh man, I really have to take this seriously. I can no longer postpone it. “
Hannah said she expects to wait up to three months after the vaccine before accidentally presenting it with her family. At this point, you can show them that no harm has been done.
“The fact that they haven’t noticed anything different is one of my main hopes,” he said.
In the meantime, he is grateful for the positive reaction he received on Reddit after posting his vaccination card.
“I know you don’t need other people to tell you you’ve done the right thing, but it sure helps when there are a lot of people saying,‘ Hey, good job, ’” he said. “Because it doesn’t come from my family, of course.”
Ostrowski, the gas station manager, also received an Immunized to Prevent award for issuing his vaccine card.
“The last of the party, but finally completely baffled,” he wrote on October 4th. The message received more than 2,000 positive votes and more than 100 comments.
He said he hopes to encourage more people to acknowledge that they have been wrong and that they can still change direction.
“I finally came and made the right decision,” he said.
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