In the week that the University of Oxford announced promising results from its coronavirus vaccine trial, we are examining social media claims about the vaccines and misleading claims about their safety.
The anti-vaccination movement has gained traction online in recent years, and campaigners opposing the vaccination have focused on the coronavirus claims.
Complaints about impact on DNA
First, a video containing inaccurate claims about coronavirus vaccine trials, made by osteopath Carrie Madej, which has proven popular on social media.
Carrie Madej’s video falsely claims that vaccines will alter recipients’ DNA (which contains genetic information).
“Covid-19 vaccines are designed to make us genetically modified organisms. “
She also claims – without any proof – that vaccines “will link us all to an artificial intelligence interface”.
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According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 25 different candidate vaccines are in clinical trials around the world, but none of them will modify human DNA and they do not contain technology to link them. people at an artificial intelligence interface.
Vaccines are all designed to trigger an immune response by training our bodies to recognize and fight the virus.
Carrie Madej makes a number of other false claims, including that vaccine trials “don’t follow any solid scientific protocol to make sure it’s safe.”
“New vaccines go through rigorous safety checks before they can be recommended for widespread use,” says Michelle Roberts, editor-in-chief of the BBC’s e-health.
We asked Carrie Madej for comment on these claims, but received no response at the time of posting.
Where was the video shared?
It was first uploaded to YouTube in June, where it has recorded over 300,000 views, but it has also been popular on Facebook and Instagram.
It still circulates in the US, UK and elsewhere.
A scientist in South Africa, Sarah Downs, who writes under the pseudonym Mistress of Science, said she was alerted to the video by her mother whose prayer group had shared it.
The scientist sent her own debunking information to this group and said, “They are now much better informed, which I am so happy about because they were all won over by this video. “
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Pace of Vaccine Trials Claims
When preliminary results from the Oxford coronavirus vaccine study were released on Monday, the topic sparked much debate in coronavirus-focused Facebook groups.
Some Facebook users posted comments saying they did not want the vaccine because they believed it would be used as “guinea pigs” and had been “put into production at full speed.”
While safety may be of concern given the accelerated pace of development, Professor Andrew Pollard, head of the Oxford Vaccine group, told the BBC that rigorous safety processes included in all clinical trials are in place.
This includes safety reports to regulators in participating countries.
The trial was so quick in concluding the first two phases due to the lead provided by previous work on coronavirus vaccines at Oxford, the acceleration of administrative and funding processes, and the enormous interest in the trial, which did not allow time to devote to finding volunteers.
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As the trial moves into its third phase, with the participation of thousands more volunteers, all participants will be monitored for side effects. There were no dangerous side effects from taking the vaccine in the first two phases, although 16-18% of trial participants who received the vaccine reported a fever. The researchers said the side effects could be managed with paracetamol.
When the Oxford vaccine trial began, it was claimed that the first volunteer had died.
The story was quickly debunked by fact-checkers, and BBC medical correspondent Fergus Walsh conducted an interview with the volunteer.
Complaints about vaccines and the Spanish flu
A meme circulating on social networks claims that vaccines were responsible for 50 million deaths during the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918.
But this is completely wrong.
First, as the US Centers for Disease Control claims, there was no vaccine at the time.
British and American scientists experimented with basic bacterial vaccines, but they were not vaccines as we would recognize them today, says historian and author Mark Honingsbaum.
It was “for the good reason that no one knew the flu was a virus.”
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There were two main causes of death – the initial flu infection or the strong, overwhelming immune response triggered by the virus, causing the lungs to fill up with fluids.
Additional reporting by Olga Robinson, Shayan Sardarizadeh and Peter Mwai.
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