There are a multitude of reasons why people are hesitant or refusing to get the coronavirus vaccine in the midst of a pandemic that’s killed over 600,000 people in the U.S. and millions worldwide, from distrust in science and medicine to wariness towards the government and also… zombies?
A New York Times report last weekend about a Bronx-based eyewear company struggling to persuade its employees to get jabbed referenced one worker whose hesitancy was based off of the belief that the COVID vaccine is the shot that turned people into zombies in the 2007 post-apocalyptic film I Am Legend.
As the Times pointed out, the zombification portrayed in the box office hit starring Will Smith was caused by a genetically reprogrammed virus, not the vaccine for it. But the bizarre claim has still flourished on the hotbed of vaccination misinformation that is social media.
On Monday, I Am Legend screenwriter Akiva Goldsman entered the chat.
“Oh. My. God. It’s a movie. I made that up. It’s. Not. Real,” Goldsman tweeted in response to journalist and comic book writer Marc Bernadin, who shared a screencap of the article with quote, “We. Are. All. Going. To. Die. Sooner. Than. We. Should.”
Oh. My. God. It’s a movie. I made that up. It’s. Not. Real.
— Akiva Goldsman (@AkivaGoldsman) August 9, 2021
While Goldsman, 59, is no household name, he is also the Oscar-winning writer behind 2001’s A Beautiful Mind, which he worked on with frequent collaborator Ron Howard. Goldsman’s other credits include A Time to Kill (1996), I, Robot (2004), Cinderella Man (2005), The Da Vinci Code (2006) and the television series Fringe (2008-2013).
Loosely based on the 1954 sci-fi novel by Richard Matheson and directed by Francis Lawrence, I Am Legend starred Smith as a U.S. Army virologist and possibly the last man alive in New York City after a virus wipes out most of mankind and turns others into cannibalistic mutants.
Confusion about the film’s premise likely stems from the fact that its backstory alludes to the outbreak’s impetus, resulting from scientists’ attempts to cure cancer. But it was a genetically re-engineered version of the measles virus, not a vaccine, that went horribly awry.
Time magazine correspondent Vera Bergengruen went down the I Am Legend/COVID-19 “rabbit hole” on Monday, sharing a widely circulated meme created from the film and several social media comments linking the film with anti-vaxx sentiment.
“The striking thing about this anecdote is that it's not one person's crazy remark, but sounds like something that's been spreading around widely in some corners of the Internet,” Bergengruen wrote. “Which it turns out it has. This post has tens of thousands of shares, with mostly serious comments.”
Well now I'm down this rabbit hole. "I am Legend" anti-vax references and content also quite popular on pro-Trump and QAnon forums, which seeps over to Facebook pic.twitter.com/Z4ydTYtx6M
— Vera Bergengruen (@VeraMBergen) August 9, 2021
Once again, for the folks in the back: Unlike the virus portrayed in I Am Legend, the COVID-19 vaccine was not genetically modified from a previous virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explains as much on its website, a helpful antidote to any zombie-related vaccine hysteria. Also, yeah, it was a movie.
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