Jonathan Berman, a doctor at the New York Institute of Technology who has studied anti-vaxxer communities, told The Daily Beast that once anti-vaxxers hook onto a theory, they start to engage in “what I call anomaly hunting.” Basically, like most other conspiracy theorists, rather than scrutinize and test a hypothesis, they go out solely in search of, and start to promote, facts and narratives that support their idea.

As soon as people started raising focused concerns about vaccine reaction deaths, the hunt for cases was on.

By the third week of December, anti-vaxxers found and frantically started sharing screenshots of a Facebook chat from someone claiming their aunt, a nurse in Alabama, had died within a day of receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. These posts contained no verifiable details.

Still, on Dec. 16, the Alabama Public Health Department called every hospital in the state and verified that this story was not true. But this just led the story to mutate in circles hungry for proof of their doubts and convictions, with new narratives arguing that the nurse in question was just from Alabama and was in fact working in South Carolina when she died. Or that the story was actually about a nurse in Arizona and someone made a typo in a message. They insisted their hunts had yielded rich, red meat.