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LA COVID-19 Vaccinations Delayed By Protesters

For nearly an hour Saturday, about 50 vaccination opponents and right-wing supporters of former President Donald Trump delayed COVID-19 vaccinations when they protested at the entrance to Dodger Stadium, the site of a mass vaccination campaign.

Holding signs that said things such as "COVID=Scam," "Don't be a lab rat" and "Tell Bill Gates to go vaccinate himself," the protesters caused the Los Angeles Fire Department to close the stadium entrance as a precaution. People in hundreds of cars, waiting in line for hours, had to wait even longer.

The site was shut down around 2 p.m. Saturday as several Los Angeles Police Department officers arrived at the scene. No arrests were made, and by 3 p.m., the site was reopened. "We will not be deterred or threatened," California Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Twitter.

Everyone who had been scheduled to receive a vaccine still got their dose, officials said. But the episode highlights the continuing distrust of vaccines by a substantial portion of the public and the unwillingness of some Americans to accept the reality of the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed nearly 440,000 Americans.

"Why are we letting pregnant women become lab rats in real time?" a man in a top hat shouted into a megaphone. Health officials say the vaccine is safe for pregnant women.

Nearby, protesters held signs like "Take off your mask & smell the bulls***" and "CNN is lying to you." The man in the top hat added: "Hydroxychloroquine works!"

It's hard to tell from an isolated protest just how widespread the belief in some of these conspiracy theories is. But according to a December NPR/Ipsos poll, the number may be significant. For instance, the poll showed that about 40% of the American public believes the coronavirus was created in a lab in China and that 17% believe the false QAnon conspiracy theory that politics and the media are controlled by "a group of Satan-worshipping elites who run a child sex ring." (And 37% said they don't know whether that one is true or not.)

Many of the Dodger Stadium protesters were also far-right supporters of Trump, but they took pains to hide that connection. "Please refrain from wearing Trump/MAGA attire as we want our statement to resonate with the sheeple," read a social media post from a protest organizer before the event, the Los Angeles Times reported.

More than 3.3 million Californians have been infected with the coronavirus, and more than 40,000 there have died — including another 464 on Saturday.

And Los Angeles health officials have warned that variants of the coronavirus are spreading there. The county's Department of Public Health confirmed it had found a second case of the more contagious variant, B.1.1.7, which first emerged in the United Kingdom. Other variants are "already spreading in the county," the department said.

Los Angeles County has also recorded four additional cases of MIS-C, which stands for "multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children." That's a complication of COVID-19 that causes serious side effects in the young, including persistent fever and inflamed body parts.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Matthew S. Schwartz is a reporter with NPR's news desk. Before coming to NPR, Schwartz worked as a reporter for Washington, DC, member station WAMU, where he won the national Edward R. Murrow award for feature reporting in large market radio. Previously, Schwartz worked as a technology reporter covering the intricacies of Internet regulation. In a past life, Schwartz was a Washington telecom lawyer. He got his J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center, and his B.A. from the University of Michigan ("Go Blue!").