‘The New Apartheid’? Conspiracist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr’s latest anti-vaccine film spins real history of medical racism to scare Black Americans into rejecting COVID shots

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Credit: Evan Vucci/AP
Credit: Evan Vucci/AP

[The film “Medical Racism: The New Apartheid”] is the latest effort by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the founder of Children’s Health Defense. (He’s the son of the former U.S. Attorney General Robert “Bobby” Kennedy and nephew of President John F. Kennedy.) With this film, Kennedy and his allies in the anti-vaccine movement resurface and promote disproven claims about the dangers of vaccines, but it’s aimed squarely at a specific demographic: Black Americans.

The film draws a line from the real and disturbing history of racism and atrocities in the medical field — such as the Tuskegee syphilis study — to interviews with anti-vaccine activists who warn communities of color to be suspicious of modern-day vaccines.

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“I see the downstream ripple effects of disinformation every day in practice, every day in the patient’s lives I treat,” says Dr. Atul Nakhasi with the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services and co-founder of the online campaign #ThisIsOurShot, which aims to encourage trust in the COVID-19 vaccine.

“We know people have uncertainties, and we need to acknowledge that and have humble, respectful conversations, but for someone to actively subvert that trust is unconscionable,” Nakhasi says.

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