Daniel Roberts hadn’t had a vaccination since he was 6. No boosters, no tetanus shots. His parents taught him inoculations were dangerous, and when the coronavirus arrived, they called it a hoax. The vaccine, they said, was the real threat.
So when the 29-year-old Tennessee man got his COVID-19 shot at his local Walmart last month, it felt like an achievement. A break with his past.
“Five hundred thousand people have died in this country. That’s not a hoax,” Roberts said, speaking of the conspiracy theories embraced by family and friends. “I don’t know why I didn’t believe all of it myself. I guess I chose to believe the facts.”
As the world struggles to break the grip of COVID-19, psychologists and misinformation experts are studying why the pandemic spawned so many conspiracy theories, which have led people to eschew masks, social distancing and vaccines.