Movies

Anti-Vaxxer Fears Immunization Will Make Her a Zombie, Like in ‘I Am Legend’


Though millions of Americans have been vaccinated without signs of a zombie invasion, the apocalypse doesn’t feel far off. Today’s strange delusion comes courtesy of a surprising source—Will Smith’s 2007 sci-fi movie I Am Legend. In a recent New York Times piece, which chronicles a New York company’s complicated journey to getting its employees fully vaccinated, one person cited the fictional film as evidence for remaining unvaxxed.

When employees at Metro Optics Eyewear were asked about the reasons for their vaccine hesitancy, answers ran the gamut from false conspiracy theories involving microchips to the lack of formal approval by the Food and Drug Administration. Most alarmingly, one staffer “said she was concerned because she thought a vaccine had caused the characters in the film I Am Legend to turn into zombies,” the outlet reported. The film’s screenwriter Akiva Goldsman refuted this thinking on Twitter, responding to an excerpt from the Times article: “Oh. My. God. It’s a movie. I made that up. It’s. Not. Real.”

In case it’s not clear that you shouldn’t use a fictional film as basis for medical beliefs, vaccines don’t cause the zombie apocalypse in I Am Legend anyway. As noted in a December 2020 Reuters fact-check, “It was not a vaccination but a modified virus used to treat cancer [that caused the invasion].” The outlet released another fact-check in March 2021 clarifying that the (again, not real) film is in fact set in 2012, not 2021.

Crediting I Am Legend for lack of immunization is not a new phenomenon. In May, an Illinois woman named Kim Simmons told The Washington Post that the film was part of her vaccine decision-making process. “I love that movie, for all kinds of reasons. But that was kind of scary,” she said, adding, “Don’t want to be a zombie.” As noted by the Post, Simmons was eventually vaccinated. Even Smith weighed in on this trend during a March 2020 episode of wife Jada Pinkett-Smith’s Facebook watch show, Red Table Talk, which provided scientific COVID-19 facts. He explained, “I wanted to do this because in 2008 I made I Am Legend so I feel responsible for a lot of misinformation.”

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