Alerts are categorized as high, medium, and low risk.
  • High risk alerts: We recommend directly addressing and debunking the misinformation
  • Medium risk alerts: We recommend monitoring the situation but not actively engaging.
  • Low risk alerts: Provided for informational purposes. We do not recommend additional action at the moment.

A video with more than 490,000 engagements promotes the idea that COVID-19 is just the common cold by showing a table in the 1989 American Medical Association's Encyclopedia of Medicine with coronaviruses next to the common cold. Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that cause a variety of illnesses, including the early 2000 SARS outbreak, the 2012 MERS outbreak, and colds. The coronaviruses that cause colds are genetically distinct from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

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A rumor is gaining traction online that the newly FDA-approved Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, now marketed as Comirnaty, is different from the vaccine that was originally granted Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) and has been administered worldwide. An anti-vaccine site that has published COVID-19 misinformation in the past posted an article claiming that the vaccines are not only different but that the vaccines that will be administered for the foreseeable future are still under EUA to protect Pfizer from liability. Both of these claims are false, and rhetoric of this kind is being used to undermine the confidence of people who were waiting for FDA approval to get vaccinated. It’s common for drugs to be referred to by names used in clinical trials until they are FDA approved, at which point they receive a brand name. Prior to FDA approval, the vaccine developed and distributed by Pfizer and BioNTech was named BNT162b2 but called the Pfizer or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for clarity. The only difference between FDA-approved Comirnaty and the FDA-authorized Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is the licensing and labeling. The vaccine is already being distributed under the name Comirnaty in the E.U. The change in status from EUA to FDA approval has no effect on liability protection.

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 A popular podcast host who has previously downplayed the importance of vaccines announced in a video posted to social media that he had recently contracted COVID-19. In the video, he claimed to be feeling great after taking a cocktail of medications, including monoclonal antibody therapy and the anti-parasitic ivermectin. This comes after weeks of influential social media users touting ivermectin as a COVID-19 miracle drug. The claims that ivermectin is an effective preventative or treatment measure for COVID-19 are based on specious evidence. Many of the studies used to back up the claims were found to be poorly conducted and, in the case of a frequently-cited large study and a meta-analysis, have been retracted. A study that analyzed results from random, controlled trials of ivermectin for COVID-19 (the gold standard of clinical scientific research) concluded that “evidence on efficacy and safety of ivermectin for prevention of SARS‐CoV‐2 infection and COVID‐19 treatment is conflicting.” 

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An Israeli study that has not yet been peer-reviewed found that unvaccinated people who were previously infected with COVID-19 have longer-lasting and stronger immunity against Delta infection than those who are fully vaccinated. Some have claimed that this is proof that natural immunity is superior to vaccine-induced immunity and are using the study to discredit officials promoting vaccination. Although natural immunity can provide robust protection against COVID-19, it is unreliable, as not everyone who recovers from COVID-19 develops enough antibodies to fight reinfection. It’s also dangerous because natural immunity can only be gained by contracting a serious and potentially deadly disease. Another recent study found that reinfection risk in unvaccinated people was more than twice that of vaccinated people, while numerous studies have shown that vaccinated people are much better protected against hospitalization and death than unvaccinated people. 

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A video with more than 1 million engagements on social media features a person spreading an unfounded rumor that the government will take children away from parents who refuse to be vaccinated. The claim seems to be based on a story about a Chicago mother whose custody was temporarily revoked because she was unvaccinated. The ruling was roundly criticized and the judge overturned the decision, restoring the mother’s custody rights. There is no evidence to support the claim that the government will strip parental rights from unvaccinated parents. Anti-vaccine organizations are capitalizing on the fears of unvaccinated parents, and stoking them, by circulating materials with instructions on how to interact with Child Protective Services so as not to lose custody of children. 

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A preprint of a Lancet study published earlier this month continues to gain traction online, including a feature on a popular conspiracy site shown to publish anti-vaccine misinformation. The site misrepresents the study’s results to conclude that vaccinated health care workers are more responsible for spreading COVID-19 to patients than their unvaccinated colleagues. The study did find that vaccinated people who contract the virus can transmit it to others, but made no conclusions about unvaccinated people as they were not a part of the study. Studies of health care workers in the U.S. have shown that unvaccinated people are more than twice as likely to contract Delta as vaccinated people.

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A social media post from the now-suspended account of a purported physician-researcher claims that new cancers have been diagnosed following COVID-19 vaccination and patients have seen sudden growth of cancers previously in remission. The user cites multiple VAERS reports about cancer as evidence that COVID-19 vaccines are particularly harmful for cancer patients. This is not the first time the vaccines have been dubiously linked to cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, COVID-19 vaccines may be less effective in cancer patients with weakened immune systems. But there is no evidence that the vaccines are harmful. Cancer patients are advised to get vaccinated due to their high risk for severe COVID-19.

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During a school board meeting in Ohio, a man repeated the debunked claim that a CDC study found that 80 percent of people who were pregnant at the time of COVID-19 vaccination suffered a miscarriage or stillbirth. The claim is based on manipulated data from the preliminary findings of a CDC study investigating COVID-19 vaccines and pregnancy. Because the study only included data from completed pregnancies, the vast majority of those vaccinated earlier in their pregnancy are still pregnant. The study explicitly states that “whereas some pregnancies with vaccination in the first and early second trimester have been completed, the majority are ongoing.” Bad actors online misrepresented the study’s results by removing data from later vaccination and only including data from completed pregnancies in people who were vaccinated early in their pregnancy. The result is a dataset of pregnancies that ended early, either 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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Ivermectin continues to be hailed as a miracle drug for COVID-19 on social media by influencers and commentators across the political spectrum. Some have speculated that the drug’s benefits are being suppressed or smeared to promote vaccination. Cases of people buying veterinary ivermectin and hospitalizations due to ingestion of livestock ivermectin have been reported in multiple states. According to the Mississippi and Texas Poison Control Centers, there has been an increase in ivermectin-related calls in recent weeks. Veterinary ivermectin products are used to treat parasites like heartworms in pets and livestock and are not safe for use in humans. Human ivermectin treatments have very different formulations and dosages than veterinary ivermectin and are not approved by the FDA to treat or prevent SAR-CoV-2 viral infection. Self treatment of COVID-19 with ivermectin has been strongly discouraged by the FDA because it can result in serious injury and hospitalization. Merck, the pharmaceutical company that developed ivermectin, said in a press release that there is no scientific evidence supporting the use of the drug against COVID-19.

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A video posted to social media features a list of recalled drugs and products that were previously FDA approved, including one produced by Pfizer. The video has received more than 21,700 engagements in the last two days and echoes sentiments shared on other social media platforms. The FDA granted full approval to the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine after months of rigorous review of the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness. The agency’s decision was supported by analysis of six months of data from Pfizer’s clinical trial, which enrolled 44,000 individuals from diverse backgrounds.

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Alerts are categorized as high, medium, and low risk.
  • High risk alerts: We recommend directly addressing and debunking the misinformation
  • Medium risk alerts: We recommend monitoring the situation but not actively engaging.
  • Low risk alerts: Provided for informational purposes. We do not recommend additional action at the moment.
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