How People Judge Anti-vaxxers Who Die From COVID-19

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A recent study suggests that when individuals who publicly reject COVID-19 vaccines later succumb to the disease, observers exhibit diverse reactions to their fates.

While very few rejoice in the deaths of anti-vaxxers, some people believe that those who vehemently oppose vaccines are deserving of worse outcomes. Interestingly, these reactions are linked to the political party affiliation and vaccination status of the individuals assessing the anti-vaxxer’s fate.

The study found that Democrats and vaccinated individuals were more likely than Republicans and the unvaccinated to think that anti-vaxxers who died received what they deserved. However, even among Democrats, 63% believed that an anti-vaxxer deserved a full recovery from the disease, compared to 80% of Republicans holding a similar view.

Notably, only 4.6% of participants in the study believed that an anti-vaxxer who contracted COVID-19 deserved death.

To conduct the study, participants read simulated social media posts from an anti-vaxxer and responded to various scenarios concerning the individual’s reaction as they fell sick and later passed away.

What we found indicates that people may view those on social media as characters in a morality play,” said study co-author Matthew Grizzard, associate professor of communication at The Ohio State University.

“Our results show that people — particularly those who were vaccinated themselves — are likely to judge those who shared misinformation about the COVID vaccine as immoral and deserving of some level of retribution.”

The study was published this week in the journal New Media & Society.

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