Prominent virologists targeted with death threats from anti-vax conspiracy theorists

PHOTO: Flickr/Gilles Péris y Saborit

Some of the world’s leading medical experts are being targeted by conspiracy theorists who disagree with their opinions on Covid-19. An AFP report says a survey carried out by the scientific journal Nature has revealed the extent of the intimidation. The journal spoke to 321 scientists and medical experts in the US, the UK, Brazil, Canada, Taiwan, New Zealand, and Germany. 81% reported personal attacks, including death threats, after speaking to the media about the Covid-19 virus.

Belgian virologist Marc Van Ranst says he was unaware his life was in danger until the authorities alerted him to the fact that a man was sitting in a car outside his home with 4 rocket launchers. The man was named as Jurgen Conings, a soldier with links to extremist right-wing groups, who had previously spoken of his plan to harm Van Ranst. Van Ranst says he and his wife and child needed to move out of their home.

“They called me at noon and half an hour later they came with heavily armoured cars. They took my son from school and my wife from the hospital and me to a safe house. We were in several safe houses over the course of about a month.”

French virologist Karine Lacombe says after regular appearances on television and radio to share her expertise during the Covid-19 pandemic, she too became a target. In particular, she experienced the wrath of supporters of discredited medic Didier Raoult, who has promoted hydroxychloroquine as a Covid-19 treatment. Such was the backlash against her criticism of Raoult, that she was verbally insulted in the street and received rape threats on Twitter. She was forced not only to leave the social media platform, but to move out of her home and in with friends.

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“It was totally new to me and extremely violent. I had a kind of breakdown.”

However, Lacombe is determined not to be silenced and returned to Twitter after a month and a half.

“It has reinforced my convictions. They want to silence us, we who have the knowledge and expertise. I’m trying not to give in.”

Van Ranst is equally focused on continuing to speak the truth.

“I’m not more careful. I’m equally outspoken against anti-vaccination messages or fake news, or whatever. Otherwise, they win.”


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Maya Taylor

A seasoned writer, with a degree in Creative Writing. Over ten years' experience in producing blog and magazine articles, news reports and website content.

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