Here’s a look at false and misleading claims circulating as the United States rolled out the newly authorized Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to some health care workers and others. None of these are legit, even though they were shared widely on social media. The Associated Press checked them out. Here are the facts:
A 42-year-old nurse in Alabama died after she received the COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday.
No health care workers died after Alabama began administering COVID-19 vaccines to them on Tuesday. Yet, posts online began falsely claiming that a nurse had died after receiving the vaccine. The posts circulated on Facebook and Twitter, with some users suggesting it was their aunt who had died or they had received the information from a close friend.
Social media users shared screenshots of text messages that said, “omg just found out my aunt dead,” and also said that the woman’s family did not want her name revealed. Some online posts suggested a nurse who died of COVID-19 had instead died after receiving the vaccine. The posts were shared by accounts that had previously shared anti-vaccine misinformation. “And so it starts... A 42 y/o nurse in Alabama found dead 8-10 hours after the va((ine,” one post on Facebook said.
After being contacted by the AP, Alabama Department of Public Health officials checked with the hospitals that administered the COVID-19 vaccine to confirm the information being shared online was false. The department released a statement on social media to combat the misinformation. “The posts are untrue,” the department said. “No persons who received a COVID-19 vaccine in Alabama have died.”
The posts online claimed that the nurse had died from a severe allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis. Those with a history of allergic reactions are being told to not get the vaccine after two health care workers in England suffered reactions. Those two people have since recovered. Pfizer, whose vaccine was granted emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Dec. 11, has reported no serious adverse effects from its clinical trials.
The AP reported Tuesday that Alabama received nearly 41,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in its initial round of shipments, which were delivered to 15 hospitals that could store that vaccine at the necessary temperature. More than 4,254 people have died from the virus in the state, and more than 305,640 have tested positive for COVID-19, according to researchers from Johns Hopkins.
Video shows health care worker faking giving the COVID-19 vaccine in England with a “disappearing needle.”
The video does not show a staged shot. As video footage of COVID-19 vaccinations floods news channels and social platforms, some social media users are misrepresenting those videos to create a false narrative that health care workers are not actually being inoculated. The posts are being shared by people who oppose vaccines in order to spread doubt about the vaccine and the pandemic.
Social media users are amplifying these false claims by sharing a nine-second BBC clip from Wednesday that shows a health care worker administering a vaccine into the arm of a patient. The needle retracts after the vaccine is injected. One Twitter video that falsely suggests the medical worker is faking the inoculation has been viewed more than 420,000 times. ‘”Disappearing needles!! There soo desperate, come on!!” one tweet said. Another said, “So far I have yet to see a real vaccine given to a patient. All fakes. May I present to you, the disappearing needle...Remember those collapsible toy knives we used to play with as kids?”
In reality, the videos show a health care worker using a safety syringe, which is retractable to prevent needlestick injuries that can spread diseases such as hepatitis.
Safety syringes have no impact on the amount of vaccine someone gets and are no different from receiving the vaccine through a traditional needle, said Dr. Craig Spencer, director of Global Health in Emergency Medicine at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center. Spencer received the COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday.
“What you saw in those videos are retractable needles,” he said. BBC debunked the claims earlier Thursday. A BBC spokesperson told the AP that the footage was genuine and showed a health care worker using a safety syringe. “Most importantly, people need to be learning about vaccinations from trusted health sources like the CDC, not your aunt’s Facebook page or a viral tweet,” Spencer said.