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A teenager hospitalized with COVID-19 is being attacked by anti-vaccine activists who are calling her a liar, a crisis actor, and a Nazi after she urged other young people to get vaccinated.
Maisy Evans, 17, from South Wales in the UK, is struggling to speak or even breathe after contracting the virus. From her hospital bed, she warned other young people about the dangers of COVID-19.
“This virus is not a joke for young people,” Maisy wrote on social media. “Those eligible must get vaccinated.”
Evans was initially hospitalized last week after suffering from headaches, breathlessness, nausea, achy muscles, dizziness, and a loss of taste and smell.
After she was admitted, initially doctors feared she had meningitis or sepsis. “But after plenty of blood tests, X-rays, and CT scans, a COVID-related blood clot has been found on my right lung,” Evans tweeted.
Evans revealed she was taking “antibiotics, steroids, morphine, and blood thinners” and that her body was unable to regulate its oxygen levels.
But immediately, Evans’ social Twitter account was inundated with attacks from anti-vaxxers who claimed the clot in her lung was related to the fact that she’d received a dose of the Pfizer vaccine.
Some media reports claimed she had received the jab just three days prior to being hospitalized, but Evans clarified that she received the first dose two weeks before being admitted to hospital.
She added that the doctors had confirmed the clot on her lung was triggered by her infection and not by the vaccine.
But that didn’t stop the trolls from attacking her.
“The attacks from anti-vaxxers started around 24 hours after I tweeted about my experience,” Evans told VICE News. “They got worse and worse after an inaccurate article was published by a popular media outlet. I’ve been called a liar, a paid government actress, Satan, a Nazi, evil, and so much more. It’s totally uncalled for.”
Evan has also received a lot of direct messages that she calls “really hateful and quite upsetting.”
“People have said I’d be blamed for any deaths caused by vaccines, that God is watching over me and that I will ‘feel the justice.’ It seems some people are almost obsessed with me, posting old pictures of me on their social media platforms, posting messages about me. It’s very strange if you ask me,” Evans said.
Evans said she’s trying to focus on recovering from her illness, so she hasn’t read all the hateful messages that have been posted about her. But any of those she has read, she has reported to Twitter.
So far “nothing has come from the reports. I’m not sure what the procedures are for social media platforms. Maybe something will come of them soon. I know a lot of my friends and family have been reporting the public comments too.”
Twitter didn’t immediately respond to VICE News’ request for comment on the attacks against Evans.
The anti-vax movement has long been focused on the threats they imagine vaccines pose to children. And now that many nations are extending their COVID-19 vaccine programs to people under the age of 18—because they have been deemed safe by the World Health Organization and national regulators like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration—the movement is trying to prevent children getting vaccinated.
Anti-vaxxers are claiming that COVID-19 has little or no impact on children, but as Evans’ situation shows, that’s simply not true. This week a healthy but unvaccinated 19-year-old died after spending two weeks in hospital with COVID-19, leaving her family devastated that they’d chosen not to get vaccinated.
Using hashtags like #LeaveOurKidsAlone, the anti-vax movement has sought to undermine trust in the vaccines, but in some cases, teenagers themselves have co-opted these hashtags to say they cannot wait to get the vaccine.
Evans, who is a former member of the Welsh youth parliament, said she has no idea who is behind the attacks, but she labels her trolls “keyboard warriors.”
“Some are part of alliances, but they all seem to be ‘keyboard warriors’,” she said. “They’ve made the situation political because of my background, and there was no need for that. Simply, I’ve been unwell. I have not been paid by any government to act unwell, although I damn wish I was. It’s been a hell of a journey, and I wouldn’t wish the experience upon anyone.”