Social media video makes false claims about Covid-19

1 April 2021
What was claimed

The “corona vaccine” is not safe or effective.

Our verdict

False. Clinical trials have shown that vaccines for Covid-19 work and are safe.

What was claimed

The coronavirus vaccines have been produced too quickly to be safe.

Our verdict

False. The vaccines in use have all passed multiple stages of animal and human trials and been shown to be safe and effective.

What was claimed

The vaccine will change your DNA.

Our verdict

False. Some of the coronavirus vaccines use mRNA, which instructs the body on how to build immune proteins called antibodies against SARS-Cov-2 (the virus that causes Covid-19). They do not change, or interact with your DNA.

What was claimed

The vaccine could cause women and girls to become infertile.

Our verdict

There is no evidence to support this.

What was claimed

Covid-19 kills roughly the same number of people as flu.

Our verdict

False. The death toll from Covid-19 far exceeds that from seasonal flu.

What was claimed

Covid-19 is not a pandemic.

Our verdict

False. Covid-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation in March 2020.

What was claimed

PCR tests should not be used to diagnose Covid-19.

Our verdict

PCR tests are the gold standard way to test for Covid-19, and are very effective.

What was claimed

The vaccine is experimental.

Our verdict

The vaccines have passed the same safety tests and procedures any other vaccine would.

A video on social media, featuring four people who state they are healthcare professionals, includes a number of false claims about Covid-19 vaccines.

The clip has been taken from a longer video which has been circulating on social media for a while. 

"The corona vaccine is not proven safe or effective.”

In the UK, three Covid-19 vaccines have been approved for use made by Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca. All of these vaccines have been found to be safe and effective.

In clinical trials the Pfizer vaccine was 95% effective, meaning the number of infections among people who were given the vaccine was 95% lower than the number in the group that wasn’t. 

While mild to moderate side effects such as nausea, tiredness and pain around the injection site, are common, these tend to pass quickly. 

The Moderna vaccine reduced cases of symptomatic Covid-19 by 94% and all cases of “severe Covid-19” occurred in the group who were not vaccinated. 

Like the Pfizer vaccine, the Moderna vaccine commonly produced mild or moderate side effects which passed quickly, but the rate of severe side effects was similar in both the vaccinated and unvaccinated groups. 

The vaccines may cause allergic reactions and so people with a history of allergic reactions, especially to any of the ingredients, should inform healthcare staff beforehand.  

The latest data on the AstraZeneca vaccine shows it reduces the rate of symptomatic Covid-19 by 76%, and is 100% effective against severe or critical Covid-19 and hospitalisation.

Previous safety data showed the rate of serious adverse events was no higher in the group which received this Covid-19 vaccine than the control group, who either received a meningitis vaccine or a saline solution.

 

“This vaccine is just not proven safe. It has been developed too quickly.”

The Covid-19 vaccines have been developed much more quickly than previous vaccines. There are good reasons for this.

For one, a lot of the groundwork had already been done. Years of developing mRNA vaccine technology and working on vaccines against other coronaviruses like SARS meant researchers had a headstart with Covid-19 vaccines. 

The AstraZeneca vaccine is not an mRNA vaccine, but uses a technique that had already been successfully used to vaccinate against other infections. 

Money was also a factor. A lot of the time it takes to develop vaccines is spent waiting for funding. With Covid-19, the global need for a vaccine was so great that funding was more accessible than usual. 

Nevertheless, the vaccines in use have all passed multiple stages of animal and human trials and been shown to be safe and effective. 

 

“It might possibly change your DNA. This is irreversible, irreparable for all future generations, an experiment on humanity.”

The claim that vaccines will change your DNA is false, and has its roots in the fact that some of the Covid-19 vaccines, including the Pfizer vaccine, contain mRNA, which is chemically similar to DNA. 

The mRNA in these vaccines is essentially code which instructs the human body on how to build proteins which are found on the surface of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the virus which causes Covid-19. 

This, in turn, prompts the immune system to build antibodies to those proteins meaning that, if the vaccinated person then actually contracts the virus, they already have the protective antibodies which will recognise the surface proteins and attack the harmful virus.

But this RNA doesn’t come into contact with human DNA (which is stored in the nucleus of cells) let alone change it. Even if it could enter the nucleus, it can’t merge with human DNA or get converted in DNA.

We’ve fact checked similar claims several times before.

 

“This vaccine could be sterilising women and girls”

The British Fertility Society says: “There is absolutely no evidence, and no theoretical reason, that any of the vaccines can affect the fertility of women or men.”

We’ve written about this several times before

The NHS also says that anyone planning to get pregnant doesn’t need to avoid the vaccine.

 

“Mortality rate [of covid] is similar to seasonal influenza virus”

We have written many times about the differences between Covid-19 and seasonal flu in terms of mortality.

The deaths caused by Covid-19 in the period between January 2020 and March 2021 are far greater than the deaths caused by flu for the same period. 

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) for England and Wales shows that 119,728 people died with Covid-19 as the underlying cause of death, compared to 23,406 people dying with flu and pneumonia as the underlying cause of death between January 2020 up to March 2021. 

We do not yet have the figures for 2020, but for 2019 for flu alone (excluding pneumonia), this figure was much smaller, and was the direct cause of 1,213 deaths. 

2020 saw far fewer cases of flu than previous years, and so perhaps isn’t a fair comparison. However, figures from Public Health England (PHE) for the last five years show that there were 11,292 deaths per year on average associated with flu in England. The year with the highest number of deaths in that period was 2017/2018, when there were 22,087 deaths associated with flu. This is far fewer than the number we have seen over the past year directly caused by, or even related to Covid-19.

 

“There is no worldwide pandemic for Covid-19.”

The definition of a pandemic is “an epidemic occurring worldwide, or over a very wide area, crossing international boundaries and usually affecting a large number of people”. 

The Covid-19 crisis meets this criteria, and Covid-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation in March 2020. 

 

“[PCR tests] have never been indicated to diagnose any infections.”

We’ve checked similar claims before

Although some have claimed that the inventor of the Polymerase Chain Reaction, Kary B Mullis, who died before the pandemic, said that PCR tests could not detect infections, this is a mis-quote. 

Confusion seems to have arisen from quotes of his in a 1996 article about HIV and AIDS. The author actually quotes Dr Mullis as saying “Quantitative PCR is an oxymoron” within the context of testing viral load (the amount of virus present) in people with HIV. This doesn’t mean he thought PCR testing didn’t work at all, but that there are limitations in detecting the specific levels of a virus from a sample using PCR testing.

PCR is the gold standard test for SARS-CoV-2 as mandated by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Public Health England (PHE). Like all tests, there are some false negatives and false positive results associated with PCR testing, however overall it is thought to be very effective. We have previously written about how PCR tests work, and how effective they are.

 

“This vaccine is experimental on the human race.”

Two of the vaccines approved for use in the UK are mRNA vaccines (the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines).

While these are the first mRNA vaccines to be rolled out to the general public, the technology behind mRNA vaccines has been developed over a number of years.  

Both mRNA Covid-19 vaccines have passed the same safety tests and procedures any other vaccine would.

This article is part of our work fact checking potentially false pictures, videos and stories on Facebook. You can read more about this—and find out how to report Facebook content—here. For the purposes of that scheme, we’ve rated this claim as false because the main claims are not true.

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