Alerts are categorized as high, medium, and low risk.
  • High risk alerts: Narratives with widespread circulation across communities, high engagement, exponential velocity, and a high potential to impact health decisions. Are often more memorable than accurate information.
  • Medium risk alerts: Narratives that are circulating in priority populations and pose some threat to health. Potential for further spread due to the tactics used or because of predicted velocity. Often highlights the questions and concerns of people.
  • Low risk alerts: Narratives that are limited in reach, don’t impact your community, or lack the qualities necessary for future spread. May indicate information gaps, confusion, or concerns.

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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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.

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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.

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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. 

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Alerts are categorized as high, medium, and low risk.
  • High risk alerts: Narratives with widespread circulation across communities, high engagement, exponential velocity, and a high potential to impact health decisions. Are often more memorable than accurate information.
  • Medium risk alerts: Narratives that are circulating in priority populations and pose some threat to health. Potential for further spread due to the tactics used or because of predicted velocity. Often highlights the questions and concerns of people.
  • Low risk alerts: Narratives that are limited in reach, don’t impact your community, or lack the qualities necessary for future spread. May indicate information gaps, confusion, or concerns.
Monthly Misinformation Report

Explore Public Good Project’s report highlighting high-level health trends. This report captures information from April 6th – May 5th, 2024.

Vaccine Misinformation Guide

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