Trump administration bailed out anti-vaccine groups during the pandemic

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Five anti-vaccine organizations received more than $850K from the federal Paycheck Protection Program

According to a new report, multiple anti-vaccine organizations have received more than $850K in loans from the federal Paycheck Protection Program installed to provide relief to companies amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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The Washington Post reports that the National Vaccine Information Center, Mercola Health Resources, Informed Consent Action Network, the Children’s Health Defense Co., and the Tenpenny Integrative Medical Center all received PPP funding from the government. The Center for Countering Digital Hate conducted the research using public documents and uncovered the loans. The U.K.-based group used data released in early December by the Small Business Administration in response to a lawsuit from The Washington Post, among other news organizations.

The groups were able to obtain the loans despite being vehicles for misinformation regarding vaccines, an effort that empowers distrust in immunizations as the government attempts to vaccinate millions of Americans against COVID-19 to slow the pandemic. According to the report, multiple Facebook pages representing the aforementioned organizations have faced consequences from the social media platform for spreading false information about the coronavirus.

Groups who use the internet to share misleading information are a “major threat to global health that could reverse decades of progress made in tackling preventable diseases,” according to the World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The Post says that the smallest loan, $72K, went to the Tenpenny organization and the largest loan, $335K, went to Mercola.

“In general, if PPP applicants [or] borrowers met the requirements, they got a loan,” said Carol Wilkerson, a spokeswoman for the Small Business Administration. Wilkerson told the news outlet the SBA is reviewing the process and applications to include more vetting on the front end and suggested the organizations were eligible to receive the funding due to the availability offered to a wide range of businesses and nonprofit groups.

The Washington Post reported Sherri Tenpenny, the person behind the Tenpenny organization, had their page banned from Facebook in December for spreading misinformation, but an Instagram account with tens of thousands of followers is still active. Dr. Joseph Mercola, the controversial medical doctor known for advancing alternative medicine and an anti-vaccine proponent, is affiliated with Mercola Health Resources. He runs a Facebook page in both English and Spanish which Avaaz, a left-leaning human rights group, called a “superspreader” of misinformation, according to the Post.

Bipartisan Members Of Congress Announce Coronavirus Relief Bill
WASHINGTON, DC – DECEMBER 01:they announce a proposal for a Covid-19 relief bill on Capitol Hill on December 01, 2020 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

The Children’s Health Defense Co., founded by Robert Kennedy Jr., told the Post that the organization does not oppose vaccinations, but is questioning their safety after the Pfizer and Moderna vaccinations were granted emergency use approval from the Food and Drug Administration. But in 2019, Facebook restricted the group’s advertisement permissions, saying that it spread misinformation.

Anti-vaccination organizations are not the only questionable recipients of PPP loans.

As theGrio reported, companies owned by outgoing President Donald Trump and family were also granted the relief funds. Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner benefited from the loans intended for small, struggling businesses. The SBA released data that revealed 25 PPP loans, totaling $3,65M, were awarded to businesses associated with either Trump or Kushner.

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“Many months and broken promises later, the court-ordered release of this crucial data while the Trump administration is one foot out the door is a shameful dereliction of duty and flagrant mismanagement of a program that millions of workers and small businesses needed to get through this pandemic,” said Kyle Herrig, president of Accountable.US, according to the report.

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The post Trump administration bailed out anti-vaccine groups during the pandemic appeared first on TheGrio.

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