Influencer Olivia Rogers said she always planned to get vaccinated when the shot became available to her.
But she didn’t expect she would see such an intense reaction from a subset of her more than 169,000 Instagram followers and others online.
“It has come with a lot of backlash,” Rogers told Business Insider Australia, adding that she’s receiving “hundreds” of negative DMs a day from people who disagree with her decision to receive the vaccination and advocate to others.
Rogers, whose followers are predominantly young Australian women, said she tends not to post content that might offend others or be considered controversial on her page.
She said she’s received pushback in the past from going alcohol-free, but nothing like what she is currently experiencing.
“I’ve definitely had pushback from different things in the past, but nothing quite as intense as this — nothing that’s been so divided.
“Usually there’s a grey area [with people’s opinions] but Rogers said she’s only seen extreme reactions this time. “It produces these really strong, hateful messages from the anti-vaxxers.”
Rogers is among a number of Australian influencers who say they have been receiving a barrage of aggressive comments and attacks on their platforms for posting photos showing they have been vaccinated.
At the same time, a small subset of influencers and content creators have been posting an increasing volume of anti-vax, anti-lockdown and conspiratorial content on their platforms; a phenomenon experts say is contributing to the spread of misinformation about the pandemic.
Rogers said she’s spoken to several influencers in her network who say they’ve received similar backlash after posting vaccination shots. Others in the public eye have had similar experiences.
In mid-August a 27-year-old journalist was trolled by anti-vaxxers on Twitter when she posted a video encouraging people to get vaccinated despite experiencing a rare side effect from the Pfizer jab.
Rogers said that while she recognises negative commentary is an inevitable part of being someone with a public platform, what concerns her most is the level of misinformation being quoted by those getting in touch with her.
“It’s been quite scary just to see how many people are just so convinced by the misinformation,” she said.
Further to this, Rogers is concerned about the impact of Australian influencers pushing conspiracies around COVID-19 to their followers.
“I don’t think there’s enough moderation at the moment.”
In the US, an army of influencers were recruited by the White House to advocate vaccination to their followers.
Influencers say medical professionals in Australia have similarly encouraged those with large platforms to share positive content and photos about their experience getting the jab.
Rogers said she’s not only received direct messages from doctors and nurses thanking her for posting “vax pics” but that a friend who is a doctor has said such content from influencers can have a real impact on the decision-making process of vulnerable groups.
“People with a platform like mine can help because the majority of the people who follow me, are the people that are a little more hesitant, and that they want to get over the line.”
She said since she posted about getting vaccinated four days ago, people have already contacted her to share that she helped change their mind.
“I have had a lot of people message me and say, ‘I got my vaccine, because I saw that you did.’”
Rogers also said that, especially when people tend to get their news directly from social media, people with a platform “have a responsibility right now to help doctors and scientists to spread the message, because I think there’s only so much that they can do.”
“Some people are scared, and I think [they] just need to see more people doing it. And that’s okay.
Rogers also thinks it’s important for Australian influencers with the power to speak to specific groups to point their followers toward medical and government information based on facts — as well as to provide a counterpoint to misinformation on social platforms.
“I believe that by having this platform, I have a responsibility to speak up about items that are important and if I were to not speak about getting the vaccine, it would be a waste of my platform at this point in time given how crucial it is.”