February 1, 2023

By Roman Adamczyk, External OSINT Investigator, EU DisinfoLab, and Alexandre Alaphilippe, Executive Director, EU DisinfoLab

On February 1, the EDMO Belux project published an investigation titled “The US anti-vax group Children’s Health Defense’s expansion to Europe”.

This investigation analyses Robert Kennedy Jr’s anti-vax movement Children’s Health Defense efforts to expand its activities in Europe. Since August 2020, the US anti-vaccine group has created a legal structure in Belgium and organised multiple events to spread its narratives and build a network of like-minded anti-vax organisations.

The group has developed its lobbying efforts targeting the European Parliament, building up relationships with specific MEPs without being registered in the EU transparency register at the time of the study. It also organised two press conferences at the Brussels Press Club.

Even though the impact of Children’s Health Defense seems to remain limited in Europe for now, especially online, it seems likely that the US group will try to continue to expand its presence in the EU 27 Member States by developing its offline lobbying efforts in Brussels and contributing to the growth of the European anti-vaccine informational ecosystems.

Moreover, social media platforms’ efforts to circumscribe the reach of Children’s Health Defense have been limited so far, and the EU remains vulnerable to the influence activities of many questionable actors like US anti-vaxxers.  

The study raises an important question as to what should be done to limit the opportunities for anti-vax groups to manipulate public discussions around vaccines in the EU and prevent them from contributing to the creation of new health crises, putting at risk the health of entire communities.

The full investigation is available here.