The dumpster fire that is 2020 may be dwindling away, but the spread of misinformation continues to rage on. Let’s go out on a high note and debunk some fake news.
1. mRNA Vaccines Can’t Alter Your DNA.
A false claim has been circulating that the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine will somehow alter the recipient’s genetic material. That’s just not how it works.
mRNA vaccines work by telling the body to make a key protein found in the coronavirus, which then trains the immune system to attack it. The vaccines don’t even enter, much less alter, a person’s DNA. It’s physically impossible.
For more info, read a debunk from the AP and why health experts are excited about mRNA vaccines from Harvard Medical School.
2. There’s Still No Evidence COVID-19 Vaccines Cause Infertility.
First, people have been sharing a fake news article claiming that the COVID-19 vaccine causes “female sterilization.”
The widely circulated article falsely suggests COVID-19 vaccines will cause infertility due to a protein found in COVID-19 that is also important to placenta formation.
Research has found the proteins bear no resemblance to one another, and therefore the vaccine could not trigger an immune response that impacts female fertility. Read more from USA Today.
Second, local newsrooms are reporting on an in-progress study investigating whether or not COVID-19 vaccines affect male fertility. The study’s lead researcher explains: “Based on the mechanism by which mRNA acts, we do not expect the COVID-19 vaccines will have an impact on male fertility. But obviously we want data to confirm that hypothesis.”
Don’t jump to conclusions based on headlines. Read more from the University of Miami.
3. Keep Your Mask On, We’re Still Learning.
Some politicians are sowing distrust in vaccine recommendations, citing changes in mask guidance back in March as evidence that our healthcare experts are giving us bad advice.
Here’s the thing: There’s a big difference between lying to the public, and changing recommendations as new information becomes available. The fact that we know more about masks than we did in March is a good thing, and it adds zero credibility to anti-mask claims.
And, as always, context matters. Get more of it from Nature.
4. No, Vaccine Recipients Aren’t Eating Each Other.
Okay, this one’s kind of obvious. But it’s a great example of how images can be used to add validity to even the wildest of claims.
The photo, taken in February of 2019 by a medical student to show what a trauma bay looked like after failed resuscitation efforts, was recently used to support a fake claim that hospitals were going into lockdown because the vaccine patients started eating people.
The story may be absurd, but the misinformation technique is actually pretty clever. Thankfully we have reverse image search tools like TinEye that can help identify where these types of photos truly originate. So, stay informed… and maybe don’t watch so many zombie movies.
Get the backstory from USA Today.
5. Vaccine Side Effects vs. Incidental Illness.
Lots of stories have been trending about the COVID-19 vaccine and its side effects. You may have seen the one about a nurse fainting (No, she isn’t dead), or the physician who went into anaphylactic shock. There are rumors that the polyethylene glycol (PEG) in the Pfizer vaccine may have caused these reactions, but no solid evidence has yet been found to support this theory.
Importantly, many problems we hear occurring after vaccinations may not be associated with them. Incidental illnesses are medical events whose timing comes down to random chance. Remember to check the statistics behind the anecdotes. So far, millions of vaccine doses have been administered with a handful of reactions.
We do know that the CDC has issued advice for people with a history of severe allergic reactions to vaccinations and other allergies. The V-safe after vaccination health checker makes it easy to transparently report side effects.
Read more about incidental illnesses and COVID-19 vaccines from Stat.