Did Merriam-Webster change the definition of "anti-vaxxer" during the COVID-19 pandemic to include a section about opposing vaccine mandates? No, that's not true: The section discussing opposition to vaccine mandates has been included in the Merriam-Webster definition of "anti-vaxxer" since at least 2018.
The claim appeared in a Facebook post (archived here) on December 7, 2021. It included a screenshot of the Merriam-Webster definition of "anti-vaxxer" (archived here). The definition was "a person who opposes the use of vaccines or regulations mandating vaccination." The caption of the post read:
None of us were 'anti-vaxxers' until they literally changed the definition to include those who 'oppose the use of... regulations mandating vaccination.'
The most Orwellian thing to happen during this pandemic is the real-time altering of definitions to gaslight the world.
This is what the post looked like on Facebook on December 8, 2021:
(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Wed Dec 8 16:15 2021 UTC)
Although phrased differently, the Merriam-Webster definition of "anti-vaxxer" has included a portion discussing opposition to the regulation of vaccines since at least 2018, before the emergence of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19, the disease that results from the virus. This archived definition of "anti-vaxxer" from 2018 defines the word as "a person who opposes vaccination or laws that mandate vaccination." A screenshot of this definition is included below:
(Source: Merriam-Webster screenshot taken on Wed Dec 8 15:53 2021 UTC)
Lead Stories previously debunked a claim stating that Merriam-Webster changed the definition of "vaccine" to remove a previous portion that mentioned "immunity" due to the controversy over COVID-19 vaccines. However, the portion involving "immunity" was just rephrased. That fact check can be found here.