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Man who helped form anti-vaccine mandate group changes views after catching COVID

Published: Sep. 20, 2021 at 3:09 PM MDT|Updated: Sep. 20, 2021 at 3:10 PM MDT
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HONOLULU (KHNL/Gray News) - In October 2020, Chris Wikoff helped co-found the Aloha Freedom Coalition — a group in Hawaii that’s been vocal against vaccine mandates and COVID rules.

At the time, he shared the coalition’s views that government shutdowns and mandates were ruining businesses and threatening individual liberties.

“They were talking about vaccine passports and vaccine mandates and it seemed like it was over-the-top totalitarianism and control,” Wikoff told KHNL-TV.

But earlier this month, he and his wife tested positive with COVID amid a surge of the Delta variant.

“We were told the COVID virus was not that deadly. It was nothing more than a little flu. I can tell you it’s more than a little flu,” he said.

Wikoff, 66, still needs help breathing. He thinks he got infected during a church event in August.

After he was diagnosed, he was first sent to Queen’s Medical Center West then to Queen’s Medical Center downtown due to the lack of bed space.

His wife, whose case was not as severe, didn’t need to be hospitalized.

“I was in a bed. I can’t move, I can’t breathe,” he recalled, about the experience. “I was afraid I was going to die.”

He was treated with Remdesivir and is now considering getting vaccinated because his doctor and family members ― some of whom are physicians ― are recommending it.

“Probably getting COVID again would be more dangerous than getting the reaction from the vaccines,” he said. The COVID vaccine has been proven to be safe and effective.

Wikoff said he asked the Aloha Freedom Coalition to remove his name as a member on its state business registration.

“I no longer want to participate. I want to mind my own business and isolate,” he said.

He is now sharing his story to warn others not to take part in rallies and protests his coalition is helping to organize, including those held in front of Lt. Gov. Josh Green’s home.

“Before I thought Josh Green was exaggerating the situation and after my experience, he sounds very rational to me,” he said.

In response to Wikoff’s change of heart, Green said, “I feel terrible for this gentleman that he got sick.”

“He was obviously getting bad advice and I feel terrible that a lot of innocent people held off on getting vaccinated because they were listening to these fear tactics.”

Wikoff said it’s time for the focus to shift.

“I think we should be more concerned about safety than about protesting. I think people should not be getting together in large groups for the purpose of protesting,” he said.

Officials hope Wikoff’s about-face will help undermine some of the protests and rallies against the vaccine mandates and other COVID restrictions.

In response, the Aloha Freedom Coalition released a statement:

“We encourage our supporters to do their own research and make their own choices. The Aloha Freedom Coalition was created with civil rights in mind. We will continue to fight against blanket mandates and for an individual’s right to choose, especially when it comes to one’s health.”

The statement continued, “We are grateful for Mr. Wikoff’s volunteer efforts with AFC and we wish him well.”

Copyright 2021 KHNL via Gray Media Group, Inc. All rights reserved.