After collapsing following an on-field collision with an opposing player during a nationally televised NFL game in Cincinnati on Monday night, Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin was in critical condition.

But if their Twitter activity was any indicator, a group of right-wing anti-vaxxers on social media valued Hamlin’s vaccination record far more than his state of health.

During the game, Hamlin, a 24-year-old second-year player, tackled violently against the Cincinnati Bengals, following which his diagnosis was not immediately clear. After tackling Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins, Hamlin stood up right away. 

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Later, Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest and collapsed to the ground. Before an ambulance arrived on the field to take Hamlin to the hospital, players and the coaching staff kneeled to pray for him. Trainers tended to him while they were on the field.

Prayers for Hamlin were offered by players and spectators alike in response to the scary incident. However, it also gave rise to what seemed to be a coordinated effort to propagate rumours about the COVID-19 vaccine, Hamlin’s immunisation history, and whether or not it had caused his injuries.

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Although tone-deaf posts are common on Twitter, the association of this noteworthy group of vaccination conspiracy theorists with MAGA ideology is probably not a coincidence.

The unsuccessful Republican candidate for New York’s 1st Congressional District Cait Corrigan was considerably more direct in her Twitter remark regarding Hamlin and his injury.

Corrigan’s erroneous assertion that Hamlin had passed away drew immediate criticism for her speculative statement.

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Corrigan fired back in a separate tweet: “Oops. I forgot that it is only appropriate to ask for one’s vaccine status to enter a restaurant, keep employment, or continue going to school. It’s unacceptable to ask vaccine status if a healthy young person collapses or dies suddenly.”

Undoubtedly, the NFL suspended its COVID-19 protocols in March. According to data, nearly 95% NFL players have had their shots.

In the social media choruses of inaccurate information about Hamlin’s injury, it took an actual medical expert to weigh in and be the voice of reason.

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“The video of Damar Hamlin from a cardiologist’s perspective resembled commotio cordis – a phenomenon that occurs when a sudden blunt impact to the chest causes cardiac arrest,” Dr. Bernard Ashby, a vascular cardiologist who is also a medical school professor, tweeted Monday night. “Timely defibrillation is life saving & prevents anoxic brain injury. I pray an AED was near,” he added.