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.

A livestream video featuring a panel of several figures prominent in the anti-vaccination movement attempts to expose a pattern of retractions of studies that demonstrate vaccine injury. The panelists claim that studies critical of vaccines are being suppressed due to conflicts of interest. In reality, these studies all had flawed data and reporting methodologies that failed to meet scientific standards. Notably, a study by one of the panelists' was retracted for falsifying data to claim that the MMR vaccine causes autism. The panel was spurred by the recent retraction of a paper that claimed that COVID-19 vaccines cause two deaths for every three that they prevent. The publication of the study caused a widespread backlash in the scientific community and prompted the resignation of several vaccine experts from the journal’s editorial board. The study was found to misrepresent data from the Netherlands' vaccine safety reporting system and was ultimately retracted by the journal. 

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Manipulated data from the preliminary findings of a CDC study investigating  COVID-19 vaccines and pregnancy outcomes are being used to claim that the vaccines are harmful to pregnant women. The study enrolled 3,958 women around three months after vaccination. Of the 827 pregnancies evaluated, the researchers found a miscarriage rate of 12.6 percent (104 pregnancies) which is comparable to the average miscarriage rate of 10 to 20 percent. Importantly, this data only includes data from completed pregnancies, which means more data is available for people who were vaccinated later in their pregnancy than for people vaccinated earlier in their pregnancy. Following the publication of the results in the New England Journal of Medicine, social media users noted that 700 of the pregnancies included in the analysis were vaccinated after 20 weeks when the risk of miscarriage is lower. They then re-calculated the rate to include only pregnancies with vaccination during the first trimester, concluding that the real miscarriage rate is 82 percent. This is a gross misrepresentation of the study’s data, as it fails to include complete data from the people who were vaccinated prior to 20 weeks, most of whom are still pregnant. In fact, the study explicitly states that “whereas some pregnancies with vaccination in the first and early second trimester have been completed, the majority are ongoing.”  By only including data from those who were vaccinated early in their pregnancy, the results were primarily from pregnancies that ended early, due to premature birth or miscarriage. The results presented in the study are preliminary and data is still being collected. At this time, the results suggest that there is no increased risk of miscarriage following COVID-19 vaccination.

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A myth has been circulating online that "toxic" graphene oxide makes up more than 99 percent of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. The claim appears to have originated on a news program known to promote conspiracy theories and has since spread in numerous languages to multiple social media platforms that don’t regulate or ban false information. The ingredients for all authorized vaccines are listed on the FDA’s website and none of them contain graphene oxide. A Pfizer spokesperson has confirmed that the ingredient is not used in the company’s vaccine.

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A social media post claims that the Delta variant of COVID-19 is far less deadly than the mainstream media reports. The user backs up the claim with data from a June 25 report from Public Health England that indicates the Delta variant’s case fatality rate is 0.1 percent compared to 1.9 percent for the original strain. A spokesperson for the agency cautions that there is not sufficient evidence to determine if the Delta variant is less dangerous than the original strain. Experts added that a reduced case fatality for the Delta variant is expected given the higher vaccination rate compared to the start of the pandemic or when earlier variants were identified. A study from April found that the Delta variant in the UK is 43 percent to 90 percent more transmissible than the original, but found "no clear evidence for a change in disease severity."

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 Mask opponents on social media have cherry-picked data from a recent lab report to argue that masks attract dangerous pathogens, making them unsafe for children. In fact, masks are particularly important to protect children against COVID-19 because children under 12 are not currently able to get vaccinated. A widely shared post about the report features several carefully selected screenshots. The full dataset reveals that most of the “dangerous” pathogens identified on masks are normal components of the body's ecosystem and were not found to be in excess. Some experts have also questioned the methods and credibility of the report, which they say fell short of scientific standards.

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 A now-retracted study published in the scientific journal Vaccines is being hailed as proof that COVID-19 vaccines are dangerous. The study was retracted for misrepresenting data from the Netherlands' vaccine adverse reaction reporting system, Lareb, to conclude that the COVID-19 vaccines cause two deaths for every three deaths they prevent. As with the VAERS system in the U.S., anyone can report any adverse reaction following vaccination to Lareb, whether or not it was actually caused by the vaccine. The data collected by these reporting systems are meant to monitor and investigate potential adverse reactions, not to represent verified vaccine side effects.

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President Biden’s announcement of targeted door-to-door outreach efforts to encourage COVID-19 vaccine uptake has reignited conspiracy theories about forced vaccination campaigns and vaccine trackers. Many social media users, including several politicians, suggested that this outreach is actually meant to force people into taking the vaccine. One politician even went as far as comparing outreach workers to a paramilitary organization that played a part in the rise of the Nazis. The White House has clarified that these efforts are intended to provide people with information and answer questions about vaccination. The federal government is not and will not be mandating COVID-19 vaccines. Other social media users are falsely speculating that the door-to-door outreach means that people are being tracked by the federal government based on their immunization status. Targeted outreach efforts will be determined by areas with low vaccination rates, not based on individual immunization status.

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False claims that the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine was developed before the pandemic have been circulating online for the past two weeks. These claims are based on an agreement between Moderna, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) that outlines the terms for transferring research materials related to coronavirus RNA vaccine between the institutions. Because the agreement was signed prior to WHO notification of COVID-19 in China, it is being used as proof of a “plandemic,” the conspiracy theory that the COVID-19 pandemic was planned. According to a spokesperson from the NIAID, the agreement pertained to vaccine candidates against another coronavirus, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), and not SARS-CoV-2. NIAID and Moderna have been collaborating on coronavirus vaccine research since 2017, well before the identification of SARS-CoV-2.

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In a radio interview, a Canadian immunologist claims that a new Pfizer study in Japan found that spike proteins from the COVID-19 vaccine can accumulate in high concentrations in organs, including the ovaries, sparking weeks of online speculation and misinformation. The “study” cited is not a study at all, but part of Pfizer’s vaccine approval submission to the Japanese government, which describes how the vaccine behaves upon entering the body. The report explains that in mice, the vessels that carry mRNA were primarily dispersed in muscles near the injection site, and trace amounts of the vessels were detected in the spleen and ovaries. The vessels were not carrying spike proteins, making it impossible for any spike proteins to accumulate in those organs.

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While the Delta variant is rapidly becoming the dominant COVID-19 variant worldwide, narratives downplaying the risk of the variant and the benefits of vaccination are circulating online. This misinformation has been at least partially fueled by the WHO's recommendation that fully vaccinated individuals continue to wear masks in public places because of the potential risk from the Delta variant, with some suggesting this proves that the vaccines are ineffective. A notable figure in the U.S. alternative medicine movement published an “analysis” falsely claiming that more fully vaccinated people have died of the variant than partially or non-vaccinated people. Exactly the opposite is true; nearly 99 percent of recent COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. have been among unvaccinated people. Still, social media users are claiming that the Delta variant is being used as an opportunity to push for another vaccine or booster shots. 

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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