Emergency alert test is not an ‘activation signal’ for a vaccine ‘pathogen’

18 April 2023
What was claimed

The emergency alert test is an “activation signal” to activate the “pathogen in the shot”.

Our verdict

On Sunday 23 April, the emergency alert test will be broadcast by cell towers to any connected phones or tablets on 4G and 5G networks. There is no conceivable way by which this can interact with pathogens or vaccines, including the Covid-19 vaccines.


It then goes on to tell people to “switch off all emergency alerts immediately on all your phones”. Similar posts appear to make the same claim.

The claim seems to be referring to the Emergency Alerts government service, which will warn people via their phones or tablets if there’s a nearby “danger to life”, for example in the case of severe flooding, fire or extreme weather. 

A UK-wide test is due to take place at 3pm on Sunday 23 April. An emergency alert test will appear as a message on certain electronic devices, and there will also be a sound and vibration for up to 10 seconds.

The posts we’ve seen making this claim on social media refer to activating “the pathogen in the shot”. This appears to be a reference to the Covid-19 vaccines—we’ve often seen the term “the shot” used this way on social media, although none of the posts directly specify that they relate to Covid-19 vaccines. 

When an alert is triggered, all cell towers in the area concerned will broadcast the alert to connected devices, which can include mobiles and tablets connected to 4G and 5G networks. This signal won’t interact with older ‘non-smart’ phones.

Dr Al Edwards, associate professor in biomedical technology at the University of Reading, told Full Fact: “There is no mechanism known to physics or biology that could connect radio signals set by mobile phone data systems, to the biological or chemical materials found in vaccines.”

We’ve written previously about false claims that the Covid-19 vaccines contain microchips, or that getting one makes you detectable via Bluetooth or magnetic. We’ve also recently checked the false claim that 5G will activate a virus hidden in Covid vaccines.

Dr Edwards added that the Covid-19 vaccines don’t contain pathogens (disease-causing bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites). The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine contains a weakened version of adenovirus, which can cause the common cold, but in the case of the vaccine this has been genetically changed so that it can’t cause infections in humans. 

(The adenovirus used has also been engineered to make a specific coronavirus spike protein, so that if the body later encounters it on coronavirus, the immune system will be able to recognise and destroy it.)

There’s no way a signal from a cell tower could “activate” a pathogen or anything that was in the Covid-19, or any other, vaccine. 

Dr Edwards said: “The exact composition of vaccines is documented on their packaging and rigorously checked by many independent bodies, and none of the ingredients can interact with radio waves.”

All of the ingredients for the Pfizer/BioNTech, Oxford/AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines have been made publicly available. 

We’ve fact checked a number of false claims about the emergency alerts test, including that it will breach GDPR and access personal data. Misinformation about the alert may lead to unnecessary alarm. In this case, it may cause people to opt out of receiving the alerts, as these posts encourage, based on false information. 

The domestic abuse charity Refuge has released a video explaining exactly how to turn off the alerts, for those who may have secret or secondary phones hidden from an abusive partner, as the alert will make a sound even if a device is on silent.

The consumer magazine Which? has also warned that scammers may send similar looking messages around the same time. The exact text of the real government test message has been released, and will tell people they do not need to take any action. Which? warns that anything asking you to download an app, set something up or provide personal information may be a scam.

Image courtesy of the Cabinet Office

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