A woman who participated in the Pfizer/BioNTech trials (and received a placebo) has nothing but a bunch of death threats to show for it after an unrelated but very painful-looking foot infection, subsequent medical debt, and a whole bunch of internet fuckery made her famous in anti-vaxxer circles.
The woman, whom the BBC simply refers to as Patricia, was 5 days out from her second injection in the vaccine trials when her left foot started to ache. Soon, she’d developed a blister so large that she had to use one of her daughter’s diapers to wrap it. In photos that one should not view if they are eating, have just eaten, or might eat later, it appears that an entire layer of her skin is missing, leaving behind a bruise-colored bubble of some combination of seething human fluid and angry flesh that obviously requires serious medical attention. But, because this is America—where said medical attention is for sale and the government insists that the only people who need or deserve it are those who can buy it—Patricia was unable to afford treatment for her foot, which the BBC helpfully explained to its non-American readers who are perhaps unfamiliar with a system in which an excruciating medical condition might also afflict one with a lifetime of crippling debt:
“Under America’s mostly private health care system, Patricia was already struggling with medical costs due to a back condition. Now she had to take time off from her job as an archival assistant due to her foot sores.”
And though doctors doubted that the correlation of Patricia’s vaccine trial was the cause of her foot infection, a relative who started a GoFundMe for Patricia’s medical bills—her family’s annual out-of-pocket, even with insurance, is $13,500—mentioned the covid trials in the plea for help. And that’s when the fuckery truly began.
Anti-vaxxer “influencers” and Biblical doomsday conspiracy theory groups lept on the GoFundMe like bacteria hungry for human flesh, flinging the story across the bullshit-smeared feeds of every ill-informed, anti-science, social media-obsessed Facebook Aunt and Anti-Mask Uncle in the world. Patricia began being abused and harassed online by both anti-vaxxers angry that she would participate in the trial in the first place and needlessly cruel anti-anti-vaxxers who accused her of singlehandedly ruining medicine for everyone:
“Anti-vaccine activists sent her angry messages saying she should never have taken part in the trial. At the same time, others sent her abusive messages accusing her of deliberately fuelling disinformation.”
To quell the rumor mill, Pfizer looked into it and revealed that Patricia had not received the vaccine in the trials but the saline solution placebo and quickly backed away from the whole mess. Patrica, on the other hand, has no idea what is wrong with her foot, has received weeks of verbal abuse and millions of shares of a photo of her medical condition that will be forever tethered to a Google search of her name, and still can’t afford her doctor’s visits or medicine. America!