5 Anti-Vaxx Groups Got $850K in PPP Funds; Now Actively Discrediting COVID Vaccines

Coronavirus vaccine.
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Five anti-vaccine organizations, which have been spreading false information about COVID-19, have received $850,000 in Paycheck Protection Program funds, stimulus money dedicated to helping small businesses battered during the pandemic.

See: New PPP — Program Aims to Be More Careful in Disbursing Funds
Find: 2020 in Review — The Year for Small Businesses Across the US

In late October 2020, the world’s leading anti-vaxxers held a private three-day meeting to discuss how to destroy confidence in the COVID-19 vaccine, according to a report published by the U.K.-based Center for Countering Digital Hate, a nonprofit aiming to disrupt the spread of digital misinformation and hate.

The groups that received the PPP loans are the National Vaccine Information Center, a group co-founded by Barbara Loe Fisher that has 209,000 Facebook followers; Mercola Health Resources, founded by “alternative medicine entrepreneur” Joseph Mercola; the Informed Consent Action Network, founded by Del Bigtree, which produces an online anti-vaccine news show with 343,000 followers; the Children’s Health Defense, founded by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., who has 1.3 million social media followers; and the Tenpenny Integrative Medical Center, founded by Sherri Tenpenny, who operates a number of “alternative health” and anti-vaccine business ventures supported by a network of social media accounts with 414,000 followers, according to the report.

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See: When Can You Get the COVID Vaccine? Here’s What We Know So Far
Find: The National COVID Vaccine Roll-Out Is a Multi-Billion Dollar ‘Trainwreck’

Facebook penalized several pages of these organizations, including prohibiting them from buying advertising, for pushing misinformation about the coronavirus, according to The Washington Post.

The PPP program has been sharply criticized, as many businesses were not able to take advantage of the loans the first time around due to the money being split unevenly and loopholes permitting big name companies to take advantage of the program. Many small businesses are now hoping that the second PPP program, which re-opened earlier this month, will be different. This second COVID-19 relief package stimulus includes an additional $284.45 billion in lending to small businesses eligible for the aid.

The U.S. has 24.1 million COVID-19 cases and will surpass 400,000 COVID-19 deaths today.

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About the Author

Yaël Bizouati-Kennedy is a former full-time financial journalist and has written for several publications, including Dow Jones, The Financial Times Group, Bloomberg and Business Insider. She also worked as a vice president/senior content writer for major NYC-based financial companies, including New York Life and MSCI. Yaël is now freelancing and most recently, she co-authored  the book “Blockchain for Medical Research: Accelerating Trust in Healthcare,” with Dr. Sean Manion. (CRC Press, April 2020) She holds two master’s degrees, including one in Journalism from New York University and one in Russian Studies from Université Toulouse-Jean Jaurès, France.

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