Dozens of scientists who speak publicly about COVID-19 say they've been abused, with some receiving death threats and getting physically attacked, survey says
A woman measures a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Radek Glimmer / Getty Images
Nature interviewed 321 scientists who had spoken publicly about COVID-19.
60% of them said they had been abused, 15% even said they had received death threats.
Vaccines and ivermectin caused the abuse, some scientists said.
A small survey by the journal Nature found that dozens of scientists who spoke publicly about COVID-19 had reported abuse, with some claiming to have received death threats or been physically assaulted.
The survey of 321 scientists worldwide who had given media interviews about COVID-19 was published on Wednesday.
The survey found that most respondents reported some type of abuse after their media appearances:
189 (59%) reported having had credibility attacks.
134 (42%) stated that they felt emotional or psychological distress.
72 (22%) said they had received threats of physical or sexual violence.
47 (15%) reported death threats.
Six (2%) said they were physically attacked after talking about COVID-19.
Medical devices that are particularly politicized, like COVID-19 vaccines or ivermectin - the anti-parasitic drug that has not been shown to treat COVID-19, some scientists told Nature.
"Every time you write about vaccines - anyone in the vaccine world can tell you the same story - you get vague death threats ... and endless hatred," Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz, an epidemiologist at the University of Wollongong in Australia, told Nature.
"I think I've actually received more death threats from ivermectin than anything I've done before," he added. "It's anonymous people who email me from strange accounts and say, 'I hope you die' or 'If you were around me, I would shoot you.'"
Health professionals have been reporting abuse related to their COVID-19 comments for months. Anthony Fauci, the White House's senior medical adviser, previously said he and his family had received death threats.
Marcus Lacerda, a Brazilian health researcher, told Nature Medicine in April that he would have to be escorted by "bodyguards with weapons" after he published a study that disproved the anti-malarial drug chloroquine could be used to treat COVID-19.
Earlier this year, Marc Van Ranst, a leading Belgian epidemiologist, had to be taken to a safe house with his wife and son for nearly three weeks after a far-right sniper escaped and a vendetta against virologists and COVID-19 lockdowns had promised. reported the BBC.
Heidi Tworek, a historian at the University of British Columbia who studies online health communicator abuse, told Nature that abuse is harsher for women and people of color from marginalized groups.
"This abuse is likely to involve abuse of your personal characteristics," she said.
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