Austria: vaccine advocate commits suicide after threats

The suicide of a doctor has shocked Austria: Lisa-Maria Kellermayr was a prominent advocate of vaccination during the Covid pandemic, and became a target of anti-vaxxers and coronavirus deniers. But when she received death threats and appealed for help she felt left in the lurch by the police, politicians and the public authorities. Last week she was found dead in her office. Commentators are dismayed and call for resolute measures.

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Salzburger Nachrichten (AT) /

More digital civil courage needed

The physician was left in the lurch by politicians and public institutions, Salzburger Nachrichten writes angrily:

“Right-wing extremist groups had the temerity to spread abstruse conspiracy theories and to attack the doctor even after her death. ... Measures to deal with digital hate crimes are still too lax. The state authorities lack the digital skills, staff, and all too often adequate awareness of the problem. ... All those who mumble and grumble along with the agitators and then hypocritically argue that were only criticising vaccination, or promoting pacifism or whatever, must be told clearly that they are complicit in the destruction and suffering. It's high time we had more digital civil courage in our dealings with these people.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Potential danger underestimated

The fronts in society have hardened as a result of the pandemic, Der Standard notes:

“There has been a radicalisation, and we mostly had no clue how to counteract it. ... What was fatal, however, was the fact that our inability also led to the authorities underestimating the potential danger and taking far too lax an approach. ... This has all been orchestrated by far-right extremists, and all those who take part in it are part of the problem. ... Such hatred and overcharged emotions are not good. Let's curb our anger and seek common ground - wherever possible. Let's listen to one another and try to understand each other. Sometimes this doesn't work. There are red lines. There must be no tolerance in such cases. We should also be very clear about this.”

Gazeta Wyborcza (PL) /

Russia causes trouble wherever it can

Russia has also used anti-vaxxer groups to destabilise the West, Gazeta Wyborcza posits:

“Ukraine has been defending itself against Russian aggression for five months with Western support. And Russia is hurting the West however and wherever it can. ... Before the invasion of Ukraine, the Russian secret service FSB made use of every opportunity it could to cause trouble in the West. And that wasn't limited to supporting Donald Trump, Brexit advocates or Catalan separatists. ... In Austria, a female doctor was harassed so intensely by anti-vaccination activists that she committed suicide. The traces left by these groups, which are spreading across Europe, also lead back to Moscow.”