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 video claiming that COVID-19 vaccines are actually "gene therapy" is recirculating online. The video claims that 87,000 doctors and nurses have claimed the pandemic is overblown, that it is actually a typical flu, and that COVID-19 vaccines are unsafe. Medical credentials are highlighted to lend increased credibility to the widely debunked claims.

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A video from America’s Frontline Doctors, an organization reported by news organizations and fact checking groups as frequently sharing misinformation, was widely shared on social media. In the video, the group’s founder and CEO repeatedly refers to COVID-19 vaccines as “experimental,” and repeats debunked theories that the vaccines will cause infertility. The video encourages people to visit the group’s website to obtain a prescription for hydroxychloroquine through a telehealth visit with a pharmacy in Florida.

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To date, the CDC has not identified any cases in which a COVID-19 vaccine has caused a person's death. All reported adverse events following vaccination are being investigated. Despite this, some 180 deaths have been reported to the US-government endorsed and reviewed Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), a passive surveillance system where any individual can self-report any health problem following immunization. VAERS does not require any proof to report an adverse event. Vaccine opponents have seized upon the reported 180 deaths to raise doubts about the safety protocols being used for mass COVID-19 immunization and to call for a halt to COVID-19 immunization. A longstanding criticism of VAERS by many of these same groups led them to recently create independent COVID-19 vaccine injury reporting systems, encouraging members of the public to report using these non-official systems rather than VAERS itself.

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Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok users are claiming that a recent sharp increase in COVID-19 deaths in Gibraltar is due to its recently begun mass COVID-19 immunization. Multiple fact-checking sites have reported that the increase was in fact part of a trend that had started before vaccination began.

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The 2020-2021 influenza season has shown lower-than-average reports of the flu, which most experts accredit to the public health measures in place to stop the spread of COVID-19. However, based on these low numbers, rumors are spreading that health officials have been falsely reporting influenza cases as COVID-19 cases, to make the pandemic appear more severe than it is.

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Vaccine opponents are using the reported death of a recently vaccinated 60-year old Orange County, California resident as further proof that COVID-19 vaccines are dangerous. This follows a similar pattern of associating COVID-19 vaccines with any reported death. Shortly prior to this story, vaccine opponents were attributing the death of a Placer County, California resident to his recent COVID-19 vaccination. To-date, the CDC has not identified any cases in which a COVID-19 vaccine has caused a person's death. All reported adverse events following vaccination are being investigated.

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Anti-vaccination advocates are making further efforts to link vaccines and injury by creating a new vaccine injury reporting system: vaxxtracker.com. Children’s Health Defense is also hosting a vaccine injury reporting system. Both sites are focused particularly on COVID-19 vaccines. These systems are not endorsed by public health authorities and have no relationship, legal or otherwise, with the US-government vaccine adverse event reporting system: the CDC and FDA-monitored Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS). The creation of these new systems appears to be at least partly in response to anti-vaccination group’s distrust of public health and government authorities, and unhappiness with the administration of VAERS. Anonymity and confidentiality of submitted data into these new systems is a concern.

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Sources based in China and Russia, some appearing to be state-sponsored, are involved in a global disinformation campaign to discredit Western COVID-19 vaccines, including the vaccines made by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna. News coverage of deaths or illness occurring after vaccination with Western vaccines, occurring anywhere in the world, are being amplified to sow doubt in these vaccine’s safety and efficacy. Other talking points include:

· Pfizer and Moderna shots are risky or deadly

· That Western governments and media are covering up illness and deaths due to these vaccines

· The U.S. pharmaceutical industry is concerned more with profit than safety and transparency

· That mRNA technology is unsafe

These talking points and others are now being echoed and elaborated on by US-based conspiracy groups, anti-government groups, anti-mask/public health groups and/or personal liberty groups, and anti-vaccine groups.

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On January 5th, baseball legend Hank Aaron publicly received the COVID-19 vaccine in Georgia, partially as a way of inspiring the Black community to become vaccinated. He died seventeen days later in his sleep from natural causes. A coroner clarified that he did not have COVID-19 symptoms at the time of his death. Vaccine skeptics have falsely linked his death to the vaccine, claiming it is part of a wave of vaccine-related deaths among older adults across the world (which is not true). Anti-vaccine advocates are also framing his death as evidence that the Black community in the US is correct to be hesitant of COVID-19 vaccines, and should distrust any public health outreach to the Black community. Anti-vaxxers are capitalizing on a legendary American’s death and tarnishing one of his final heroic acts, to encourage vaccination, in order to cast him as an unwitting pawn of public health authorities.

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False claims to continue to circulate that it is better to acquire COVID-19 than to get the vaccine. This new spike in the same misinformation stems from Merck's discontinuation of their vaccine trial because immune responses to natural infection were stronger than the response generated by their trial vaccines. Misleading claims leave out the fact that Merck discontinued trials because the immune response from their vaccines were inferior to those reported for other 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