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VERIFY: COVID-19 vaccine checklist meme is misleading

The long Q&A image is making the social media rounds with misinformation and slanted questions.
Credit: VERIFY

An image titled “COVID-19 Vaccine Q&A” that recently went viral on social media appears to provide a list of vaccine-related facts, but VERIFY has found the meme is misleading.

The meme compares the vaccine to boarding an experimental aircraft without safety testing and includes a 14-item checklist that falsely suggests the coronavirus vaccine is unsafe. The meme is trending on several social media platforms, with users taking the checklist at face value. 

Credit: VERIFY


Is this COVID-19 vaccine Q&A correct?


Using a “yes” and “no” format, this meme includes misinformation and sometimes leaves out context in its Q&As, with some questions crafted to mislead. The checklist carries the credit line Digital Signposts, which has ties to Plandemic, a 25-minute video that Youtube has pulled for misinformation. The list of sources includes several groups that oppose routine vaccinations, opponents of the fluoridation of water and backers of hydroxychloroquine as a cure for the coronavirus. 

Here is a quick rundown of the answers. Related questions have been combined. 

CLAIM: The vaccines are experimental and have not been subject to medium- or long-term safety testing in humans

NEEDS CONTEXT: It’s true that mRNA vaccines are experimental, but they have been subjected to safety testing and the science has been developing for years on these types of vaccines.

While the vaccines are not technically approved, the FDA says on its website that they have been “rigorously tested.” They were in their final phase of drug trials — the point at which they’re given to thousands of people —  when the FDA granted them an Emergency Use Authorization, or EUA. Dr. Sam Sun, a vaccine expert and director of the InDemic Foundation, told VERIFY, “99.5% of the ‘experiments’ for these vaccines have been completed, and the data for safety and efficacy are very, very good.”

CLAIM: The vaccines were not safely tested on animals 

FALSE: The COVID-19 vaccines were, in fact, tested on animals. 

Studies included mice, rats, hamsters and monkeys, according to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Science. The National Center for Biotechnology Information also lists articles on studies with primates and mice using the mRNA vaccines.

CLAIM: The effects are not reversible

MISLEADING: There isn't evidence of serious side effects to reverse in the first place.

For all vaccines, “there's not been a serious side effect in history that hasn't occurred . . . within six weeks of getting the dose,” Dr. Paul Offit of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia says in a video. So far, no serious side effect has emerged specific to the COVID-19 vaccines, he says. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists minor, temporary side effects. There have been rare instances of allergic reactions, but that can occur with other vaccines.

CLAIM: The vaccines will not stop you from getting or spreading COVID, and you still have to wear a mask

NEEDS CONTEXT: These claims are true for the most part, but need some clarification.

The vaccines prevent the overwhelming majority of recipients from getting sick, but because there are still questions about transmission, the CDC still recommends you wear a mask.

“Although COVID-19 vaccines are effective at keeping you from getting sick, scientists are still learning how well vaccines prevent you from spreading the virus that causes COVID-19 to others, even if you do not have symptoms,” the CDC says. For that reason, the vaccinated should keep wearing masks, it says. 

CLAIM: The Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca vaccines contain aborted fetal or monkey cells

FALSE: Vaccine experts say that there are no fetal cells or monkey cells in the COVID-19 vaccines.

Dr. William Moss, executive director of the International Vaccine Access Center at Johns Hopkins, said the AstraZeneca vaccine is derived from an adenovirus grown in a kidney cell line that came from a fetus aborted in 1972, but does not contain fetal cells itself. To be clear, he said, the cell line did not grow directly in fetal tissue. Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at Johns Hopkins, said the Johnson and Johnson vaccine is manufactured similarly and also does not contain fetal cells. Monkeys were used in research and safety testing of the vaccines.

CLAIM: The vaccines have long-term effects on fertility

FALSE: Experts say there's no evidence the vaccines have long-term fertility effects.

There is “absolutely no evidence” that COVID-19 vaccines can affect the fertility of women or men, the British Medical Journal says in a report on guidance from the Association of Reproductive and Clinical Scientists and the British Fertility Society.

The University of Chicago says if women are undergoing fertility treatments, they should continue the treatments and also get vaccinated. It advises women to speak with their doctors about any concerns.

CLAIM: The vaccines pose the risk of autoimmune disease, strokes, seizures, convulsions and other side effects

FALSE: There has been no evidence that the vaccines cause most of the side effects listed, and severe side effects that can occur are very rare.

To repeat Dr. Offit, the history has been that serious side effects show up in the first six weeks of using a vaccine. There have been rare reports of anaphylaxis, or an allergic reaction, after a shot, the CDC says. Fever, a common side effect from the COVID-19 vaccines, can trigger seizures in some people with epilepsy, the Epilepsy Foundation says. Still, the foundation urges getting vaccinated. There were concerns of blood clots in a small number of people in Europe who got the AstraZeneca vaccine, which has not been approved in the U.S. Researchers in Germany said they’ve found the cause and a targeted treatment for the clots.

CLAIM: The vaccines have caused deaths and injuries

FALSE: Officials have traced no deaths back to the vaccines as of yet.

“A review of available clinical information including death certificates, autopsy and medical records revealed no evidence that vaccination contributed to patient deaths,” the CDC says. 

CLAIM: The vaccine manufacturers are not liable for injuries or deaths caused by the vaccines

TRUE: The vaccine manufacturers have immunity from liability, with few exceptions, if something unintentionally goes wrong.

Under the PREP Act, short for the U.S. Public Readiness and Emergency Preparation Act, manufacturers have immunity from liability, with few exceptions, if something unintentionally goes wrong with their vaccines. Otherwise, the New England Journal of Medicine says, the makers wouldn’t have agreed to procurement contracts or to ship the vaccines.

CLAIM: There are doctors and scientists recommending people not take the vaccine

MISLEADING: Yes there are some, but the major U.S. physician organizations recommend that people take the vaccine. 

Dr. Sandra Fryhofer, the American Medical Association liaison to the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, urges that physicians tell patients, “You have to decide if you’re going to get vaccinated. My recommendation to you is to go for it.” The American Academy of Family Physicians likewise says, “Encourage your patients to take the first vaccine available to them.” The American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine also stands behind patients getting vaccinated.

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