- The campaign began with a nurse fired for not complying with a vaccine mandate at a Texas hospital.
- It helped fund a lawsuit against the hospital. That suit was dismissed in June.
- An anonymous donor contributed $50,000 to the campaign.
The online fundraising platform GoFundMe has removed a campaign started by a nurse in Texas who sought to overturn a COVID-19 vaccine mandate, telling Insider that upon further review the fundraiser - which had brought in more than $180,000 - ran afoul of its policy against misinformation.
Started in April, the campaign was led by Jennifer Bridges, a former registered nurse at Houston Methodist hospital who was fired after refusing to get vaccinated.
With money raised on GoFundMe, Bridges, who has appeared on Fox News to discuss her opposition to taking the vaccine, filed a legal challenge against the mandate in May. In the complaint, lawyers for Bridges and dozens of other employees who signed on to the litigation were being forced by the Texas hospital to take an "experimental" vaccine.
Bridges, according to her attorney's legal filing, likens vaccine mandates "to forced medical experimentation during the Holocaust."
That lawsuit was dismissed in June. Bridges' attorneys have appealed the decision.
"When our team initially reviewed the fundraiser, it was within our terms of service as the funds were for legal fees to fight vaccine mandates," Heidi Hagberg, a spokesperson for GoFundMe, said in a statement to Insider. "The fundraiser has since been updated to include misinformation which violates our terms of service."
The subsequent review was conducted after Insider pointed out statements on the campaign page that challenged not just mandates but the safety of the vaccines themselves. However, because the campaign was "within our terms at the time of withdrawal," Hagberg said, Bridges will be able to keep the money.
Originally, Bridges' campaign - which received an anonymous donation of $50,000 - had portrayed opposition to the vaccine mandate as related to concerns that it had not been "fully FDA approved."
In August, however, the US Food and Drug Administration granted that full approval to the vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech, which had to that point been provided an emergency-use authorization based on data from clinical trials.
The full approval did not change Bridges' mind. A September update to her fundraiser was defiant: "No one should ever be forced to inject something into their body that is not safe against their will."
In a video posted to the campaign, from a "medical freedom" rally post-FDA approval, Bridges mocked evidence that the vaccines are safe, claiming to have witnessed it causing miscarriages and death. "All lives matter," she said.
Globally, just one death in New Zealand has been linked to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, although it is not clear that it was the actual cause. A recent study also found there was no connection with mRNA vaccines and increased rates of miscarriage. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all people over the age of 12, "including people who are pregnant," get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Bridges did not immediately respond to a message requesting her response to GoFundMe's decision. Houston Methodist declined to comment.
GoFundMe, which removed the fundraiser on Friday, said it has taken down "hundreds" of similar fundraisers that promoted "misinformation related to vaccines."
But the fundraising platform has not removed all campaigns that make questionable assertions about COVID-19 vaccines. At least two dozen medical workers fired for refusing to be vaccinated have active fundraisers on the site.
A fired physician's assistant in New York, Deborah Conrad, has raised more than $68,000 in less than two weeks for living expenses and the cost of travel to events where she speaks out against vaccine mandates, claiming in the fundraiser that medical authorities are engaged in a "cover up of possible Covid 19 related Vaccine injuries [sic]."
The company, which takes a 2.9% cut on donations, insists that fundraiser does not violate its policy.
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