Facebook groups that routinely traffic in anti-vaccination propaganda have become a resource for people seeking out a wide variety of medical information — including about the ongoing flu season.
Facebook hosts a vast network of groups that trade in false health information. On “Stop Mandatory Vaccination,” one of the largest known health misinformation groups with more than 139,000 members, people have solicited advice for how to deal with the flu. Members of the group have previously spread conspiracies that outbreaks of preventable diseases are “hoaxes” perpetrated by the government, and use the groups to mass-contact parents whose children have died and suggest without evidence that vaccines may be to blame.
- A four year old Colorado boy died from the flu.
- Although the child did not initially have the flu, the doctor prescribed Tamiflu for everyone in the household since all of his brothers had it.
- The mother did not pick up the prescription.
- Najee, or “Junior” eventually caught the flu from his brothers, developed a fever, and convulsed.
- Instead of treating the family with Tamil, the mom went online and solicited advice from members of the anit-vaxxer group, “Stop Mandatory Vaccination,”
- She then treated her kids with peppermint oil, Vitamin C, and lavender but admitted they did not work.
- Others in the Facebook group told her to use breastmilk, thyme, and elderberry.
- Unsurprisingly, no one suggested getting flu shots.
Tamiflu is the most common antiviral medication prescribed to treat the flu. The drug can ease symptoms and shorten the length of illness, but concerns about side effects are common even outside anti-vaccination echo chambers. The flu has hit children particularly hard this season. Pediatric hospitalization rates are higher than normal, and 68 children have died, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A Facebook spokesperson said in an email:
“This is a tragedy and our thoughts are with his family and loved ones. We don’t want vaccine misinformation on Facebook, which is why we’re working hard to reduce it everywhere on the platform, including in private groups.”
Although the boy’s mother did not mention the ‘natural cures’ she used to treat her sick kids, she did speak with DENVER (KKTV) and stated the following about her son:
“He was the light of everybody’s day. … He’s full of joy, full of energy, has the most beautiful smile with his super deep dimples.
I’m hurting so bad right now and so is his dad and brothers. Our whole family is hurting and it feels like we failed him because we did what we had to do.”
A GoFundMe account has been set up to help the family with funeral expenses.