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A stalwart cadre of anti-vaccination extremists appear to be increasingly resorting to the adoption of more terrorising tactics to achieve their goals.

This assessment was issued to clients of Dragonfly’s TerrorismTracker Service on 24 January 2022.

Progressing from scuffles and low-level violence during protests, anti-vaccination advocates from across the ideological spectrum are now more often explicitly calling for, and in some cases have already claimed, violent incidents against testing and vaccination centres in Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland. And it is apparent that these incidents seem to be motivated by an intention to communicate a political and ideological message.

Based on the information collected by our online threat monitoring team, the key driver for this shift in tactic appears to be chronic frustration and dissatisfaction with how governments are handling the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly regarding the implementation of restrictive measures that limit liberties. In reaction, some anti-vaccination extremists are already taking matters into their own hands, with recent escalations of anti-vaccination tactics including a plot to murder the prime minister of Saxony, and the physical assault of the coordinator of a vaccination centre in France.

The growing radicalisation among a fringe of anti-vaccination advocates is particularly marked in Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Italy and the Netherlands. These advocates perceive measures as being particularly restrictive (lockdowns, mandatory vaccinations and vaccination passes) in these countries, and motivating more brazen displays. Many incidents over the last few months have prompted the Austrian, French and German domestic intelligence agencies to issue advisories alerting on the radicalisation of anti-vaccination advocates.

In the near term at least, there is no clear indication that the appetite of this cadre of anti-vaccination extremists for using terrorist tactics will spread to the wider anti-vaccination population. The shift from radicalisation of opinion to radicalisation of action is not linear and dependent upon multiple, often personal, variables. But as the two-year anniversary of Covid-19 lockdowns draws nearer across numerous countries, it is clear that even mainstream public tolerance for continued restrictions is waning, and with it may come burgeoning support for more violent reaction led by anti-vaccination groups.

Image: Far-right militias are seen as antivaxxers affiliated to far-right parties march during a banned demonstration on January 2, 2022 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. (Photo by Pierre Crom/Getty Images)