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Correcting this week’s misinformation: week of April 13, 2023

Did the FDA fail to disclose a toxin in COVID-19 vaccines?

The Claim:

A tweeter claims the FDA had secret documents showing that COVID-19 vaccines contain toxic graphene oxide.

The Facts:

This claim is not true; our tweeter fails to understand both the purpose of the “secret” document and the vaccine manufacturing process.

The document cited by this tweet is a paper studying the structure of the vaccine’s spike protein under an electron microscope. It does not detail the manufacturing process of the vaccine.

Further, even if this document studied the vaccine’s manufacturing process (it doesn’t), our tweeter fails to understand that process. Just because an element is used in the manufacturing process does not mean that element is present in the vaccine. This distinction between manufacturing elements and vaccine elements is important to understand. However, we also want to point out that graphene oxide isn’t even used in the COVID vaccine manufacturing process.

Is the 2020–2021 drop in flu cases a mystery?

The Claim:

A tweeter claims that the 2020–2021 drop in the number of flu cases is a great mystery.

The Facts:

Far from being a mystery, this reduction in flu cases during the pandemic is easily explained.

Influenza is a respiratory disease, mainly spread via tiny droplets expelled when people speak, cough, and sneeze. COVID is also spread mainly via respiratory infection When people took protective measures like masking and distancing to prevent respiratory COVID infection, influenza infection was also decreased. In fact, the effects of protective measures on influenza infection were even more pronounced because influenza is much less contagious than COVID.

The good news is that we have vaccines that help protect against the risk of severe disease and death from both these diseases.

Was the COVID vaccine linked to a teenager who suffered a stroke?

The Claim:

An anti-vax physician tweeter (who frequently attempts to link the COVID-19 vaccine to individual cases of people dying suddenly or emerging with new health conditions) is at it again. This time, he’s trying to claim a link between the COVID vaccine and a teenager who had a stroke in November 2022.

The Facts:

In a series of tweets, this author suggests the COVID vaccines are linked to a number of cardiac events, strokes, and deaths.

In this particular tweet, our tweeter attempts to support his claim by highlighting an article about a young middle school student who suffered a stroke. However, if you look at the article itself, it reports that the stroke was a result of a virus called Focal cerebral Arteriopathy (FCA). There is no mention of the COVID vaccine.

There is a name for this tactic of using loads of individually weak examples to overwhelm the reader: it’s called a gish gallop. When you start to look at the examples individually (like this teenage stroke example) and the underlying claim (COVID vaccines cause new health conditions), it often falls apart.

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