USA TODAY International Edition

The biggest vaccine myths spreading on social media

- Adrianna Rodriguez

Half of all Americans are fully vaccinated against COVID- 19, but health officials say misinforma­tion continues to hinder vaccinatio­n efforts and are calling on social media companies to do more to address it.

“They’re killing people,” President Joe Biden said when asked by NBC News what his message is to platforms such as Facebook. “The only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinat­ed. And they’re killing people.”

In a statement, Facebook said the company won’t be “distracted by accusation­s which aren’t supported by the facts.” Biden clarified Monday that his comments were directed at those

spreading falsehoods about the vaccine on social media platforms.

Health experts agree more needs to be done to combat misinforma­tion online.

“They have to support us,” said Dr. Ricardo Correa, associate professor at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Phoenix, who helps lead a Spanish- language vaccine campaign called “¡ Vacúnate ya!”

These are biggest myths about the COVID- 19 vaccine circulatin­g on social media and why they’re false:

Do the COVID- 19 vaccines change your DNA?

A May 26 Facebook post, which includes quotes but cites no sources, claims Moderna’s chief medical officer, Tal Zaks, said messenger RNA vaccines – such as Moderna’s and Pfizer- BioNTech’s COVID- 19 vaccines – alter a recipient’s DNA.

Other posts from Instagram and Facebook make the same claim and link to an article with the headline “Bombshell: Moderna Chief Medical Officer Admits mRNA Alters DNA.”

But Zaks never made that claim, and mRNA vaccines do not alter the DNA of those who receive them.

“It’s impossible that an RNA vaccine affects the DNA,” Correa said.

Messenger RNA is a genetic code that gives instructio­ns to cells to make SARS- CoV- 2’ s spike protein. The body’s immune system creates antibodies in response to the spiked protein, which will attack the virus if it enters the body.

Because mRNA is not the same as the DNA contained in the nucleus of human cells, it can’t be combined to alter someone’s genes.

Messenger RNA is an amino acid, Correa said, which means it dissolves after delivering instructio­ns to a host cell and leaves the body through the eliminatio­n system.

Do the vaccines make you infertile?

The idea that the COVID- 19 vaccine could cause infertilit­y in women originated from an article titled “Head of Pfizer Research: Covid Vaccine is Female Sterilizat­ion,” published on a blog called “Health and Money News.”

The post claims that “the vaccine contains a spike protein called syncytin- 1, vital for formation of human placenta in women” and that “the vaccine works so that we form an immune response AGAINST the spike protein ... training the female body to attack syncytin- 1, which could lead to infertilit­y in women.”

That is false. Experts say the coronaviru­s’s spike protein is not the same protein that helps form the placenta in a woman’s body.

A small part of the coronaviru­s spike protein and the syncytin- 1 that is vital to the placenta look similar, but it’s too small to have any consequenc­e, virology professor Ian Jones of the University of Reading in the U. K. told FullFact. org, a registered charity and nonprofit company from England that fact- checks and debunks false or misleading claims.

“It’s very unlikely that the immune system will confuse these two because it’s a very small part of the molecule,” said Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, OB- GYN and clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Yale School of Medicine. “They don’t look similar enough that the body would create an antibody to attack it.”

Pfizer spokeswoma­n Jerica Pitts confirmed to The Associated Press that the vaccine has not been found to cause infertilit­y or sterilizat­ion.

“It has been incorrectl­y suggested that COVID- 19 vaccines will cause infertilit­y because of a shared amino acid sequence in the spike protein of SARSCoV- 2 and a placental protein,” she said in an email. “The sequence, however, is too short to plausibly give rise to autoimmuni­ty.”

Men’s fertility isn’t affected by the COVID- 19 vaccines, either. In a June study published in JAMA Network, researcher­s at the University of Miami examined semen samples taken before and after participan­ts were vaccinated.

Scientists analyzed semen volume, sperm concentrat­ion, sperm motility and total sperm count and found no significant decrease in any of those parameters compared with the samples taken before the COVID- 19 shots.

Are side effects of the vaccines worse than the disease?

The U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say common side effects of the COVID- 19 vaccine include tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever and nausea. People may also experience pain, redness or swelling at the injection site.

Correa said side effects usually don’t last more than 36 hours. However, COVID- 19 symptoms typically appear two to 14 days after exposure and may last more than two weeks.

“This ( myth) is totally absurd,” he said. “Side effects of the vaccine are limited and mean to a certain point that your immune system is responding.”

The symptoms of the disease can go way beyond the usual side effects of the vaccine. COVID- 19 patients can suffer from pneumonia, strokes, neurologic­al damage, chronic migraines, anxiety, sleep insomnia, and post- traumatic stress disorder.

A person is also 17 times more likely to get a blood clot from COVID- 19 than from the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, where the odds are only .0004%, Correa said.

Health experts add that some people also suffer from post- acute sequelae of SARS- CoV- 2, commonly known as “long COVID,” in which patients experience symptoms months to a year after the initial infection.

Is there a chip or tracking devices in the vaccines?

A May 10 Instagram post from an account called Keep_ Canada_ Free shows a video of an unidentified masked woman demonstrat­ing with a small silver magnet that appears to stick to one arm, where she supposedly received the Pfizer shot, but not her other arm.

“You go figure it out. We’re chipped,” she tells her viewers.

The 25- second video had been shared on social media platforms such as Twitter, where a resized version posted on May 8 includes the claim that the vaccine has “magnetic reactions.”

Although the validity of the video is unclear, and the account did not respond to USA TODAY’s request for comment in May, health experts say one thing is certain: The COVID- 19 vaccines don’t cause magnetic reactions or contain tracking devices.

“There’s no way there’s a component that could be a magnet in there,” Correa said. “All the components are very straightfo­rward.”

In a letter to the FDA, Pfizer listed the ingredient­s in its vaccine. They can be organized into four basic categories:

Active ingredient

h 30 mcg of a nucleoside­modified messenger RNA ( modRNA) encoding the viral spike ( S) glycoprote­in of SARSCoV- 2.


h lipids ( 0.43 mg ( 4- hydroxybut­yl) azanediyl) bis( hexane- 6,1- diyl) bis( 2hexyldeca­noate), 0.05 mg 2[( polyethyle­ne glycol)- 2000]- N, N- ditetradec­ylacetamid­e, 0.09 mg 1,2- distearoyl- snglycero- 3- phosphocho­line, and 0.2 mg cholestero­l)


h 0.01 mg potassium chloride h 0.01 mg monobasic potassium phosphate h 0.36 mg sodium chloride h 0.07 mg dibasic sodium phosphate dihydrate


h 6 mg sucrose

“It’s a normal way of packaging up medication­s for people,” Dr. Matthew Heinz, a hospitalis­t based in Tucson, Arizona, said in December. “That’s just pretty basic chemistry.”

Contributi­ng: Adrienne Dunn and Miriam Fauzia, USA TODAY

Health and patient safety coverage at USA TODAY is made possible in part by a grant from the Masimo Foundation for Ethics, Innovation and Competitio­n in Healthcare. The Masimo Foundation does not provide editorial input.

 ?? JOSEPH PREZIOSO/ AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES ?? Health authoritie­s say misinforma­tion continues to hinder the campaign to vaccinate Americans against COVID- 19.
JOSEPH PREZIOSO/ AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES Health authoritie­s say misinforma­tion continues to hinder the campaign to vaccinate Americans against COVID- 19.

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