News and Commentary

Amazon Prime Removes Anti-Vaxxer Documentaries

The anti-vaxxer movement took another hit this week when Amazon Prime began removing documentaries from its streaming service that criticize vaccines, reports CNN.

“Amazon has apparently started removing anti-vaccine documentaries from its Amazon Prime Video streaming service,” reports the outlet. “The move came days after a CNN Business report highlighted the anti-vaccine comment available on the site, and hours after Rep. Adam Schiff wrote an open letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, saying he is concerned ‘that Amazon is surfacing and recommending’ anti-vaccination books and movies.”

Movies like “We Don’t Vaccinate!,” “Shoot ‘Em Up: The Truth About Vaccines,” and “Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe,” were offered to Amazon Prime members. They are now unavailable.

“As the largest online marketplace in the world, Amazon is in a unique position to shape consumption,” Schiff wrote in the letter to Amazon. “The algorithms which power social media platforms and Amazon’s recommendations are not designed to distinguish quality information from misinformation or misleading information and, as a result, harmful anti-vaccine messages have been able to thrive and spread. The consequences are particularly troubling for public health issues.”

“I am concerned by the report that Amazon accepts paid advertising that contains deliberate misinformation about vaccines; promoting these advertisements as suggested content ahead of intended search results,” Schiff continued. “Every online platform, including Amazon, must act responsibly and ensure that they do not contribute to this growing public health catastrophe.”

Amazon has reportedly not responded to media requests as to why the anti-vaxxer documentaries are no longer available. While Amazon Prime has removed the documentaries, still has several anti-vaxxer books available for purchase. CNN Business reports that some were even available for free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers.

The removal of the anti-vaxx documentaries comes almost two months after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the movement a global threat, which it classified as “vaccine hesitancy.”

Vaccine hesitancy – the reluctance or refusal to vaccinate despite the availability of vaccines – threatens to reverse progress made in tackling vaccine-preventable diseases. Vaccination is one of the most cost-effective ways of avoiding disease – it currently prevents 2-3 million deaths a year, and a further 1.5 million could be avoided if global coverage of vaccinations improved.

Measles, for example, has seen a 30% increase in cases globally. The reasons for this rise are complex, and not all of these cases are due to vaccine hesitancy. However, some countries that were close to eliminating the disease have seen a resurgence.

The report also said that anti-vaxxers reject vaccinations for a variety of complex reasons, including complacency, inconvenience in accessing vaccines, and lack of confidence.

“Health workers, especially those in communities, remain the most trusted advisor and influencer of vaccination decisions, and they must be supported to provide trusted, credible information on vaccines,” read the report.

Anti-vaxxers, however, maintain that they have been maligned as crazy people unnecessarily against vaccines when, in fact, they simply believe that more information should be available to parents. Libertarians have also been divided on the issue between debates about public health and parental rights.