Knowing what misinformation is being shared can help you generate effective messaging.

These insights are based on a combination of automated media monitoring and manual review by public health data analysts. Media data are publicly available data from many sources, such as social media, broadcast television, newspapers and magazines, news websites, online video, blogs, and more. Public health data analysts from the PGP (The Public Good Projects) triangulate this data along with other data from fact checking organizations and investigative sources to provide an accurate, but not exhaustive, list of currently circulating misinformation.

Recommendations are organized into three categories:

  • Ignore: Focus on current communications priorities.
  • Passive Response: Be prepared to address if directly asked, and in certain cases consider updating FAQ’s and info sheets addressing common myths and misperceptions. Otherwise, continue to focus on current communications priorities.
  • Direct Response: Directly address this misinformation.

Several social media accounts with large followings have shared the preprint of a study that claims teen boys are at greater myocarditis (heart inflammation) risk from vaccination than COVID-19 infection. The study, which is still under peer review, has been heavily criticized by physicians and public health experts who noted that it relies entirely on a search for potential myocarditis-related symptoms in unverified VAERS reports. The study’s authors flagged every VAERS report of high levels of the heart protein troponin as “myocarditis.” Cardiologists were quick to point out that equating high troponin with myocarditis is grossly inaccurate as the protein can increase in response to many regular activities, including exercise. The study also does not directly compare myocarditis following vaccination and COVID-19 infection; it compares VAERS reports that may be related to myocarditis in young men to COVID-19 hospitalization for the same age group. The study failed to correct for the baseline level of myocarditis in the age group and ignored that their risk of developing myocarditis from a COVID-19 infection is seven times higher than from COVID-19 vaccination.

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A social media post that claims to offer tips from a nurse to treat COVID-19 at home suggests everything from taking daily supplements and baby aspirin to sleeping on your stomach and drinking berry smoothies. None of the proposed remedies are supported by any evidence but most are relatively harmless. Dietary supplements and daily aspirin regimens should not be started without first consulting a doctor.

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A pop star made headlines after telling her fans on social media not to be “bullied” into getting the COVID-19 vaccine and claiming that her cousin’s friend in Trinidad developed swollen testicles and became impotent after getting vaccinated. Trinidad's health minister has said that no such post-vaccination adverse events have been reported in the country. Although the singer’s claim was quickly debunked by doctors who noted that there is no evidence that the vaccine affects fertility or erectile function, the incident highlights the pervasiveness of some of the most persistent COVID-19 vaccine myths.

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A social media post is claiming that in November all Walmart locations will begin requiring customers to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination. A Walmart spokesperson said this claim is false. The company is requiring employees at some US locations to get vaccinated but no vaccine requirement exists for customers. Online misinformation related to vaccine mandates and vaccine passports has spiked in the days since the federal government announced vaccination or testing requirements for large employers.

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Multiple social media accounts are circulating the myth that Dr. Christine Grady, wife of NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci, is the head of the FDA and was responsible for approving the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Dr. Grady is the chief of bioethics at the NIH Clinical Center, which plays no role in the emergency use authorization or approval of any drugs or vaccines.

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The results of an Oxford study currently under peer review have been misinterpreted online to suggest that vaccinated patients with COVID-19 have 251 times the viral load of unvaccinated patients. The false claim, which the study’s author called "an egregious misinterpretation of the findings," has been widely shared by individuals and organizations previously shown to spread anti-vaccine rhetoric. The purpose of the study was to examine breakthrough infections in health care workers and compare viral loads between those individuals infected with the Delta variant and patients infected with the original COVID-19 viral strain. The study did not compare viral load in individuals based on vaccination status. The researchers found significantly higher viral loads in Delta infections than in those with the original COVID-19 strain.

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Several news outlets and social media accounts have falsely claimed that ivermectin has been approved to treat COVID-19 in Japan. One video that has been viewed more than 80,000 times claims to show the chair of the Tokyo Medical Association recommending ivermectin for all COVID-19 patients. In the video, he discusses ivermectin’s apparent benefits and suggests the off-label prescription of the drug. He also acknowledges that more study of the drug is necessary. The chair and his organization are not part of Japan’s Health Ministry, which oversees drug approvals and provides official health guidance. Ivermectin is not among the drugs approved for use against COVID-19 in Japan and neither the Tokyo government nor the Japanese Health Ministry recommends the drug to treat COVID-19. The video has also been widely shared in North America without this context.

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An unverified VAERS report that has resurfaced several times since March claims that a breastfeeding baby died suddenly after the mother received a COVID-19 vaccine. The report claims that the mother was vaccinated on March 17 and the baby developed a fever and rash and died the following day. Elsewhere in the report, the vaccination and baby’s death are said to have taken place in March 2020, before any COVID-19 vaccines were available. At least one person who has circulated the claim on social media admitted to using a picture of a child with a rash who is perfectly healthy now. Some who have shared the claims have speculated that the vaccine spike protein could have transferred through the breast milk to cause the alleged symptoms. The spike proteins induced by the mRNA vaccines are harmless; they only serve to train the immune system to recognize the spike protein on the real virus and combat it. All available evidence suggests that the COVID-19 vaccines are safe during both pregnancy and breastfeeding.

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A 2018 article about the possibility that viruses can evolve to evade vaccines is trending on social media. The article was shared online by the self-declared “inventor” of mRNA vaccines, who is a vocal opponent of COVID-19 vaccination, in a post claiming that COVID-19 vaccines are creating new variants. The post received nearly 19,000 engagements. While the article, which was published more than a year before SARS-CoV-2 was identified, argues that vaccine-driven evolution of viruses may be possible, there is no evidence that SARS-CoV-2 has evolved in this way. New COVID-19 variants develop when mutations occur during viral replication. Viruses can’t replicate outside of a host—in this case, human cells—so preventing a virus from infecting cells in the first place prevents it from reproducing and mutating.

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The pre-print Israeli study that compared natural immunity from previous COVID-19 infection to vaccine-induced immunity continues to create a stir online as some use it to argue against COVID-19 vaccination. One widely shared article claims that the study, which is still under peer review, has “demolished” the case for COVID-19 vaccine requirements. The article has garnered more than 100,000 engagements across multiple social media platforms, including more than 56,000 engagements from a post by a U.S. senator. Natural immunity, while robust, is far more unpredictable and dangerous to acquire than vaccine immunity. The only way to gain natural immunity is by contracting COVID-19, which means risking serious illness, long-term effects, and death. Moreover, not everyone who has previously had COVID-19 develops enough antibodies to fight reinfection. One recent study found that vaccination after a previous infection decreases reinfection risk.

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Knowing what misinformation is being shared can help you generate effective messaging.

These insights are based on a combination of automated media monitoring and manual review by public health data analysts. Media data are publicly available data from many sources, such as social media, broadcast television, newspapers and magazines, news websites, online video, blogs, and more. Public health data analysts from the PGP (The Public Good Projects) triangulate this data along with other data from fact checking organizations and investigative sources to provide an accurate, but not exhaustive, list of currently circulating misinformation.

Recommendations are provided, organized into three categories:
  • Ignore: Focus on current communications priorities.
  • Passive Response: Be prepared to address if directly asked, and in certain cases consider updating FAQ’s and info sheets addressing common myths and misperceptions. Otherwise, continue to focus on current communications priorities.
  • Direct Response: Directly address this misinformation.
Vaccine Misinformation Guide

Get practical tips for addressing misinformation in this new guide. Click image to download.

Vaccine Misinformation Guide

Get practical tips for addressing misinformation in this new guide. Click image to download, or see highlights