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Nobel Prize-nominated infectious disease doc targeted by anti-vaccine groups after refusing debate

A dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is administered. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
A dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is administered. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

By now, many have heard of Dr. Peter Hotez, a pediatrician and world-renowned infectious disease and vaccine researcher. He was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for his work on the team that developed a low-cost, patent-free COVID-19 vaccine.

And now, he’s also the target of a full-scale defamation campaign, that’s included harassment, threats and public confrontations. The reason? He’s refused to agree to a vaccine debate with anti-vaccine Democratic presidential candidate Robert Kennedy, Jr., an event proposed by podcaster Joe Rogan on Twitter this month.

Since the initial offer, other wealthy anti-vaxxers, including Elon Musk, have offered to add to Rogan’s initial offer of donating $100,000 to the charity of Hotez’s choice for participating.

Host Robin Young talks to Hotez about becoming a target and the effect of public campaigns like this one on science and scientists.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.