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 social media post with more than 11,000 likes has been flagged as false for mistakenly conflating coronavirus and COVID-19. The post references an episode of Grey's Anatomy in which a character is quarantined for suspected Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). The post notes that it is “odd” that coronavirus was mentioned on the show in 2015, years before the current COVID-19 pandemic. MERS is a type of coronavirus but is genetically distinct from COVID-19. The post highlights that while “COVID-19” and “coronavirus” have entered the common lexicon, confusion around the terms still exists.
A USA Today article reporting that more people have died this year from AstraZeneca-related blood clots than from COVID-19 in Australia is being championed by vaccine skeptics in the U.S. as proof that the COVID-19 vaccines are more dangerous than the virus. Some social media users have accused health officials of corruption for continuing to recommend that people receive their second vaccine dose if they haven’t already. While it is true that in Australia two people have died from vaccine-related blood clots and only one person has died from COVID-19 in 2021, the data in this article has been taken out of context. A total of 64 vaccine-related blood clots have been reported out of the more than 4 million vaccine doses delivered in Australia. For comparison, Australia has had 30,408 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 910 deaths to date. The country’s low number of deaths in 2021 is due in large part to the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines. In the U.S. and Australia, data has shown that the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccines far outweigh the risks, as cases and deaths continue to decrease as more people get vaccinated. Although transmission rates are decreasing in both countries, people who are unvaccinated are still at risk from any new outbreak.
Recommendation: Passive Response Read More + Due to the prominence of this publication and the lowering death counts in countries with higher vaccination rates, clarifying the role of vaccines as they relate to shifting morbidity and mortality data is recommended. The comparison of risk from vaccination to risk from COVID-19 to the general public is a false equivalency, but understandably confusing for non-expert audiences. As more people get vaccinated, the public’s perception of risk of both COVID-19 and COVID-19 vaccines is expected to shift.
Due to the prominence of this publication and the lowering death counts in countries with higher vaccination rates, clarifying the role of vaccines as they relate to shifting morbidity and mortality data is recommended. The comparison of risk from vaccination to risk from COVID-19 to the general public is a false equivalency, but understandably confusing for non-expert audiences. As more people get vaccinated, the public’s perception of risk of both COVID-19 and COVID-19 vaccines is expected to shift.
A previously debunked video from 2014 resurfaced this week, featuring an alleged whistleblower who claimed the CDC destroyed data proving that the MMR vaccine causes autism in African-American boys. The claims are based on a now-retracted study that reanalyzed an earlier CDC study and claimed to find an increased risk of autism in African-American boys who received the MMR vaccine before age 3. In fact, the data from the CDC study did not show a significant increase, and the retracted study’s methodology was called into question. Any causal link between vaccines and autism has been disproven repeatedly, but agents of misinformation are using the story as further evidence that the public cannot trust the CDC, its recommendations, or the COVID-19 vaccines.
Recommendation: Ignore Read More +
Social media posts are once again falsely claiming that airline executives are considering banning vaccinated passengers from flying due to fears of blood clots at high altitudes, this time in Spain and Russia. In fact, airlines are actively encouraging vaccinated individuals to travel without restriction, testing, or quarantine. A spokesperson for the International Air Transport Association confirmed that the organization is not aware of any airlines considering a ban on vaccinated passengers due to a blood-clot risk. No evidence indicates that vaccinated passengers are at an increased risk of blood clots while flying. Although certain types of blood clots are a concern for all passengers during long flights, these are unrelated to the specific rare blood clots that are potentially associated with the AstraZeneca and the Johnson & Johnson vaccines.
An Irish social media post claimed that the Pfizer vaccine trials of children ages 12 to 15 showed that vaccines cause more harm than good. This statement is false, as no significant safety concerns were identified in Pfizer’s clinical trials for children in this age group. The results of the trial were reviewed by the FDA and the WHO's Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE), with both agencies concluding that the vaccine was safe for children 12 and up. The WHO’s recommendations for COVID-19 vaccinations in children state that children who are at high risk should be offered the vaccine alongside other priority populations.
Recommendation: Passive Response Read More + There is significant understandable concern among parents, children, and other groups regarding the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines and vaccine trials in children. Ensuring educational and informational materials address these concerns are recommended. Suggested resources include:
There is significant understandable concern among parents, children, and other groups regarding the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines and vaccine trials in children. Ensuring educational and informational materials address these concerns are recommended. Suggested resources include:
A small, non-peer-reviewed study is circulating online, with sharers claiming that it shows that high doses of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) can increase COVID-19 survival rates by 200 percent. Critics of the study point out that the study did not test the effects of the drug in a broad group of COVID-19 patients, but merely reviewed data from a small group of severely ill COVID-19 patients, most of whom received HCQ in combination with an antibiotic. Of the 37 patients who received a high total dose of HCQ plus antibiotics, around half survived, compared to about 17 percent of the patients who did not receive the high dose. Although the survival rate in the small group given high-dose treatments was higher than in other patients in the study, results from the non-controlled, non-randomized study cannot be applied to the larger population.
A video posted on several independent sites claims that airline companies are meeting to discuss banning vaccinated individuals from flying because of the recent discovery of 150,000 “hidden” vaccine-related deaths in government databases. The video suggests that the hidden deaths resulted from vaccinated people being at higher risk for blood clots at high altitudes. Multiple fact-checkers confirm that no airlines have met to discuss these purported risks. While blood clots are a known risk when traveling long distances due to prolonged periods of stillness, there is no evidence to suggest that the vaccinated are at greater risk of blood clots when flying.
Recommendation: Ignore Read More +
Last week, a Danish soccer player collapsed unexpectedly during the Euro 2020 Cup and was later confirmed to have suffered cardiac arrest. Several social media users speculated that the event was a reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine, with some people falsely claiming that the player received the vaccine on May 31. A spokesperson for the Danish national team dismissed the claims, noting that the player had not been vaccinated against COVID-19.
Recommendation: Ignore Read More +
A video on social media features a man previously shown to spread conspiracy theories calling the COVID-19 pandemic a hoax created to promote climate change, which he also said was a hoax. Among other debunked claims in the video, he claims that the COVID-19 vaccine is not actually a vaccine but a gene therapy that will alter one's DNA and cause infertility. This video has been viewed more than 13,000 times, demonstrating the persistence of debunked COVID-19 myths.
As the CDC continues to investigate cases of myocarditis and pericarditis in young people who received COVID-19 vaccines, several social media users are warning people not to risk their children's health for a virus that they have "zero risk of dying from," claiming that the risks of vaccination outweigh the dangers of COVID-19 in children. Although children and young people have a much lower chance than adults of dying from COVID-19, they can still develop severe illness with potentially long-term impacts. Children can also still transmit the virus to high-risk individuals and play a role in spreading COVID-19 variants. So far, cases of myocarditis and pericarditis in vaccinated individuals have been rare and mostly mild. In a demonstration of its commitment to closely monitoring and ensuring the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines, the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will hold a meeting to evaluate and discuss the issue on June 18.
Recommendation: Direct Response Read More + CDC’s recent reporting of a limited number of cases of heart inflammation in children following COVID-19 vaccination has caused widespread concern and information seeking. Organizations are recommended to directly address this understandable concern, and to update informational and educational materials accordingly. Helpful talking points can be found here. An upcoming webinar on COVID-19 Vaccination and Children on June 23rd at 1pm ET might also be helpful.
CDC’s recent reporting of a limited number of cases of heart inflammation in children following COVID-19 vaccination has caused widespread concern and information seeking. Organizations are recommended to directly address this understandable concern, and to update informational and educational materials accordingly. Helpful talking points can be found here. An upcoming webinar on COVID-19 Vaccination and Children on June 23rd at 1pm ET might also be helpful.