Online Anti-Vaxxers Exploit Unexpected Death of Young Girl in Ohio


  • An anti-vax social-media campaign has targeted the family of a 6-year-old girl who died suddenly.
  • A photo of the child posted on the “Died Suddenly” Twitter blamed her parents for vaccinating her.
  • #DiedSuddenly is a recent iteration of an online conspiracy spreading disinformation about vaccines.

After the unexpected death of a young girl with long-time health issues in Ohio, online conspiracy theorists took the opportunity to blame the COVID-19 vaccine for her passing.

Just hours after the funeral of six-year-old Anastasia Weaver, who died in January, strangers online were quick to contact grieving family members to further their anti-vaccination agenda. One Facebook user messaged the child’s mother, according to AP, calling her a “murderer.”

Anastasia’s obituary said that the kindergartener died unexpectedly at the Akron Children’s Hospital in Ohio on January 25. She had previously experienced health problems, including epilepsy, asthma, and frequent hospitalizations resulting from respiratory viruses, her obituary said.

While the results of her autopsy are not yet public, doctors “haven’t given us any information other than it was due to all of her chronic conditions,” Jessica Day-Weaver, Anastasia’s mother, told AP. 

Even so, the “Died Suddenly” Twitter page — and, more widely, the anti-vaccination movement — has co-opted and exploited the death of a young girl after the account posted a photograph of Anastasia on Twitter with a syringe emoji as a kind of “warning” against COVID vaccines.

“Her mother is a nurse, and she heavily pushed the vaccine on Facebook,” the post said, falsely indicating that her mother and the vaccine were in some way responsible for her death. 

The “Died Suddenly” hashtag is centered around a video by the same name, which labels itself as a “documentary film of a generation.”

Produced late last year by the far-right online commentator Stew Peters, the film misrepresents the stories of health crises and frames them as vaccine-related deaths. The hour-long movie claims, among other things, that COVID vaccines cause blood clots that cause unexpected deaths — an idea that health experts have repeatedly debunked as misinformation.  

Anastasia and her family are only one of the latest targets of the “Died Suddenly” Twitter account, which began posting in October 2022 and has nearly 300,000 followers. Other Twitter accounts are also pushing this line and trawling for death stories.

The anti-vaccination movement latches on to and exploits the medical emergencies and deaths of many other children, teenagers, and high-profile celebrities — like the sudden collapse of the Buffalo Bills’ player Damar Hamlin after a cardiac arrest on the field — to “provetheir anti-vaccination theories. 

Some of those whose lives the movie has used for anti-vaccination propaganda, as Matt Shuham reported in the HuffPost, are fighting to take their stories back. 

Traffic to the #DiedSuddenly hashtag has increased by 740% on Twitter over the past two months compared to the previous two, according to an analysis conducted for the Associated Press, and searches for the term on Google spiked around the time the video was released. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene also tweeted in support of the video a few days after it came out. 

While the film “premiered” on the site Rumble — a video-sharing site popular within the alt-right community — the entire video is also available to watch on Twitter after the site removed its COVID-misinformation label, when billionaire Elon Musk took over the platform, according to The Atlantic. 

“Twitter under Elon Musk has been giving signals to the communities of conspiracy theorists that Twitter’s door might be open to them again,” Jing Zeng, a researcher on Twitter and conspiracy theories, told The Atlantic.


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