Five Covid-19 vaccine false theories - debunked

Since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a lot of talk about vaccines.

We’ve taken a look at what a vaccine actually is and how long it might take until we get one, and news outlets have been reporting on the progress research teams around the world are making. But there’s also been a lot of misleading information about how safe vaccines are, and what they're for – especially on social media.

In the past few months Reality Check, the BBC's fact-checking team, have taken a look at some of the Covid-19 vaccine claims that have gone viral to find out what’s true and what’s not. Here are some that made headlines.

A lot of misleading information about the potential Covid-19 vaccines has already been shared online

The claim: Covid-19 vaccines will alter our DNA

BBC Reality Check says: FALSE

One of the videos with inaccurate claims was made by osteopath Carrie Madej and circulated online at the end of July.

In it, she falsely suggests that the vaccines are designed to change people’s DNA “to make us into genetically modified organisms” and to “hook us all up to an artificial intelligence interface”.

Scary stuff, if it were true – but there is no evidence at all that this is the plan.

Of the vaccine trials currently underway involving humans, none are designed to alter human DNA, nor do they contain the technology to effectively plug us all into The Matrix.

So, if these claims aren’t true – why does Carrie Madei’s video matter? The video was originally uploaded to YouTube in June and had more than 300,000 views and was also very popular on Facebook and Instagram. On top of that, doctors are worried that misleading information might put people off getting a vaccine if or when one becomes available.

You can read the full Reality Check article here.

The claim: Covid-19 vaccines will implant microchips into people

BBC Reality Check says: False

Also in July, Formula 1 star Lewis Hamilton shared a video on Instagram that featured a TV interview with Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates - who funds vaccine research. In it, Mr Gates dismisses unfounded claims that a potential vaccine would involve injecting people with microchips so that they can be tracked.

But a video - posted by the account Kingbach - took this footage and added a laughing emoji and the words “I remember when I told my first lie”. This was what Hamilton shared with his 18m followers. He later said he hadn’t seen the comment, wasn’t anti-vaccine and deleted the post.

The microchip conspiracy theory keeps coming up and the Gates Foundation has called it ‘false’. It is funding research into technology that could store information about whether someone has had a particular vaccine or not. But this would not involve implanting microchips or tracking people, according to scientists involved in the study.

You can read more about the story in the original Reality Check article.

The claim: A volunteer in the Oxford Covid-19 vaccine trial died

BBC Reality Check says: FALSE

Updates by the team behind the University of Oxford vaccine trial have been met with comments and posts claiming that it is being rushed and is unsafe.

It is true that the trial is progressing at a much quicker rate than normal vaccine research would. The Oxford vaccine has completed its first two stages of testing in record speed, in part due to existing Coronavirus knowledge – but also because of unprecedented funding and huge numbers of volunteers wanting to take part.

Despite the pace of the trial, Prof Andrew Pollard, head of the Oxford Vaccine Group, told the BBC at the end of July that there were rigorous safety checks in place.

But this didn’t stop the rumours - including one big, false one that the the first volunteer who received the vaccine in the Oxford trial had actually died.

In fact, the BBC’s medical editor Fergus Walsh actually interviewed them to disprove this story.

Read more about these posts here.

The claim: Bill Gates believes huge numbers of people will die from taking the Covid-19 vaccine

BBC Reality Check says: FALSE

Another one on Bill Gates - he seems to be a popular target. One tweet - which had more than 45,000 retweets and likes - falsely suggested that Mr Gates “admits the vaccine will no doubt kill 700,000 people".

This is not something he has ever said.

It does shows a video of Mr Gates talking about the effectiveness of vaccines in older people and the potential risk of side effects for them. He talks theoretically about how many might experience side effects worldwide. "If we have one in 10,000 side-effects, that's way more... 700,000 people who will suffer from that."

But he doesn’t talk about deaths and "admit" 700,000 will die from a vaccine.

Bill Gates has been the target of many unfounded claims about vaccines - Reality Check has debunked them in May.

The claim: The Spanish Flu vaccine was responsible for 50 million deaths

BBC Reality Check says: FALSE

Similar false stories about the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic have been shared in memes.

One - which Reality Check looked into in July - claims that vaccines were responsible for 50 million deaths. This is not true.

The US Centers for Disease Control confirms that there was no vaccine for Spanish flu at the time.

While scientists both in Britain and the US experimented with a basic bacterial vaccine, they were not, according to historian and author Mark Honingsbaum, anything like the vaccines we know today.

Honingsbaum says this is because “no-one knew that the influenza was a virus”.

The two main causes of death were the initial flu infection as well as sufferers’ lungs filling with fluid as a result of the immune system’s response to the virus.

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