As PM Modi Announces New Vaccine Policy, Social Media Hoaxes Causing Vaccine Hesitancy Busted

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As the second wave of coronavirus pandemic is on the ebb and many states have started unlocking themselves, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation on June 7. In his address, he announced a change in the existing vaccination policy. He announced the ‘One Nation, One Vaccine’ drive, which will ensure free vaccines for all above 18 years of age.

Even though PM Modi has announced the new vaccine policy to ensure the safety of citizens and to stop further spread of coronavirus, many citizens are still hesitant to take the COVID-19 jab. 

On June 3, a video went viral on social media showing an elderly woman hiding herself behind a drum in Etawah, Uttar Pradesh, as she feared the healthcare workers conducting the coronavirus vaccine drive. The lady was seen crouching and trying to hide herself even as her family members and healthcare workers tried to persuade her to come out.

Vaccine hesitancy due to misinformation is on the rise, resulting in slowdown of the vaccination drive. Hence, for the campaign to be successful, it is also important for us to address these channels of misinformation. 

Below are some of the misconceptions that are trending on social media. 

Claim 1: Coronavirus vaccine causes infertility:

The impact of this hoax can be judged by this report: People from a particular community in Sharfuddinpur village in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur district did not turn up for taking the COVID-19 jab as they feared the vaccine to be a government propaganda to sterilize them. However, NewsMobile did a fact-check on the claim and found it to be fake.

On searching with keywords, ‘covid vaccine causing infertility’ we found multiple reports debunking the viral claim.

A blog published by University of Missouri Health Care said that the myth of coronavirus vaccine causing infertility was based on an assumption that the vaccine can cause the body to attack syncytin-1, a protein in the placenta that shares a small piece of genetic code with the spike protein of the coronavirus hence posing risk of carrying fetus. The report further quoted Laura Morris, MD, MU Health Care family medicine doctor, who said that the vaccine does not cause infertility in women. She said, “There is no plausible reason — no medical or scientific mechanism — for this vaccine to interact with a woman’s reproductive organs or have any interaction with an egg that’s been released or fertilized.”

Also the manufacturers of COVID-19 vaccines Covishield and Covaxin, Serum Institute of India and Bharat Biotech respectively, have released fact sheets with the side effects of the respective vaccine. While side-effects of both the vaccines mention swelling at the point of vaccination, body ache, fever, nausea, etc. but nowhere do they state that the vaccine affects fertility.

VG Somani, Drug Controller General of India,  had also refuted the claim on January 3, 2021. He said, “We’ll never approve anything if there’s the slightest of safety concern. Vaccines are 110 % safe. Some side effects like mild fever, pain & allergy are common for every vaccine. It (that people may get impotent) is absolute rubbish.” 

Hence, the viral claim that the coronavirus vaccine causes infertility is fake. NewsMobile has also done a similar fact-check earlier which can be read here.

Claim 2: Women should not get vaccinated during menstruation, pregnancy or lactation:

Social media rumours claim that the vaccine should not be administered to menstruating women/ pregnant ladies/lactating mothers, but NewsMobile’s investigation found these claims to be misleading. 

While the fact-sheet released by both Serum Institute of India (SII) and Bharat Biotech mentions that pregnant women and lactating mothers must let their vaccinator or  officer supervising their vaccination know about their condition but nowhere is it mentioned that menstruating females cannot get vaccinated. Also, Bharat Biotech in its fact-sheet has mentioned that Covaxin should not be administered to pregnant ladies or lactating mothers as  the effect of the vaccine has not been studied in them, but SII’s fact-sheet doesn’t completely deny vaccine shots for them. According to SII’s fact-sheet, pregnant women or lactating mothers should seek doctor’s approval before administering the jab. 

Dr Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist of World Health Organization(WHO) in her conversation with Vismita Gupta-Smith on talk show Science Conversation also denied the viral claims. On the claim of no vaccination during menstruation, she said that there’s absolutely no problem in going ahead and getting the vaccine, except for more tiredness. 

Addressing the skepticism of vaccinating lactating mothers, she said, “There is no risk at all because all the vaccines that are being used presently, none of them have the live virus in it. And so there’s no risk of transmission through breast milk. In fact, the antibodies that the mother has can go through the breast milk to the baby and may only serve to protect the baby a little bit.” 

Similarly Swaminathan also debunked the claim of the vaccine impacting pregnant ladies. She said, “There is no potential safety concern or any adverse event. In the case of COVID, we know that pregnant women are at higher risk of getting severe COVID and also at higher risk of delivering a baby prematurely.

So, in situations where there is a lot of COVID transmission in the country and a woman is exposed to it, or if she’s in a profession like a healthcare worker or a frontline worker where she’s at especially high risk of acquiring the infection, the benefits of getting the vaccine definitely outweigh the risks, particularly since the platforms that we used currently for vaccines are the mRNA platform, inactivated viruses or the viral vectored platforms or subunit proteins. None of them have a live virus that can multiply within the body and that could potentially create a problem.” She emphasized on the need of giving coronavirus vaccine to pregnant ladies to prevent from COVID-19 complications. 

(Disclaimer: While NewsMobile found these viral claims to be misleading, we also suggest that lactating mothers and pregnant ladies must ensure that they should consult their healthcare provider before deciding to take the vaccine.)

A similar post claiming menstruating women are at a higher risk due to coronavirus vaccine was viral earlier, NewsMobile had then debunked the claim which can be read here.

Claim 3: All vaccinated people will die within two years

Many netizens shared a post attributing French Nobel Laureate, Luc Montagnier, claiming that he confirmed that all vaccinated people will die within 2 years and that there is no chance of survival.  

The post misquoted the interview of Luc Montagnier with Pierre Barnérias of Hold-Up Media. The interview was later published on May 18, 2021, by RARE foundation, an organisation which describes itself as a grassroots activist organisation. In the interview, Luc said that the coronavirus vaccine is leading to variant creations and also said that the vaccine may lead to antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE), but nowhere is it mentioned that those who have taken coronavirus shots will die within two years. 

NewsMobile has earlier fact-checked both the claims made by Luc and found them to be fake. The detailed fact-check of Luc’s claims can be read here.

Claim 4: Poison is being added to the coronavirus vaccine

A message went viral on social media claiming that 5.6 ml of poison is being added per 20 ml of COVID-19 vaccine, which is enough to kill someone. 

NewsMobile did a fact-check and found this to be a hoax trying to create panic.

According to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, 23,27,86,482 people have been vaccinated till June 7, 2021. If the above message was true then there should have been massive death counts across the nation. 

On the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) section of COVID-19 Vaccination on this website, it is clearly outlined that Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) has approved emergency use of two vaccines in India i.e. Covishield and Covaxin. 

Vaccine manufacturers of both Covishield and Covaxin have given complete information about their vaccines on their respective websites. The composition of chemicals used in the vaccines are also mentioned. This information can be seen below, respectively.

Thus, it is clear that the claim about the COVID-19 vaccine containing poison is fake. 

Claim 5: Coronavirus vaccine contains microchips

There are many social media hoaxes that claim that the government is administering microchips in people’s bodies through coronavirus jabs. 

NewsMobile’s fact check found the claim to be fake.

A post went viral on social media, claiming that Pfizer vaccine has Microsoft chip in it. However, it was a satire published by The Stonk Market, a satirical website related to economic issues, which many considered to be news. The detailed fact-check of the NewsMobile can be seen here.

Similarly, many social media users through a video portrayed that coronavirus vaccine is generating electricity that can make a light bulb glow. However, this claim was fake, as the person who created the video, later through a tweet, clarified that the video was a prank which by mistake went viral on social media. PIB Fact-Check team through a tweet also confirmed that the coronavirus vaccine is safe for use and there is no microchip or any other metal present in it. A detailed fact-check of the same can be seen here.

Thus, we can conclude that there are many myths and hoaxes viral on social media revolving around coronavirus vaccine that are creating vaccine hesitancy. 

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