RENO, Nev. (AP) — A Nevada nonprofit organization promoting vaccinations has canceled two events this month after it said anti-vaccination activists harassed restaurant vendors hired to host the events.
Immunize Nevada executive director Heidi Parker told the Reno Gazette-Journal that several people posted bad reviews for each vendor for supporting the organization's events on Facebook and Yelp.
The comments were bringing down the overall review rating. Immunize Nevada reported the hecklers to Facebook and Yelp, which took down the comments.
With sponsorships from groups such as the Community Health Alliance, Immunize Nevada booked the venues and made food arrangements several months in advance.
The organization said it lost a few thousand dollars after canceling both events.
“We typically get about 200 attendees at these celebration events at each location,” Parker said, adding she believed the online heckling would take away from the celebration.
Events scheduled for Dec. 6 in Reno and Dec. 13 in Las Vegas were canceled to avoid potential threats from anti-vaccination activists at the in-person events. It was unknown who was behind the online comments.
“We planned the breakfast event as an end-of-the-year celebration, and we had Big Shot award nominees,” Parker said.
Instead, the coalition organized one statewide online event on Dec. 13 to celebrate the importance of vaccinations. It raised $14,726.
Parker said the recent wave of harassment by activists known as anti-vaxxers isn’t new. In July, a small group of protesters attended the annual Family Health Festival in Sun Valley, an event where local organizations provide health care, free vaccines, and food to the community in Reno-Sparks.