3 biggest vaccine misinformation campaigns + their origins

Misinformation about the safety of COVID-19 vaccines has caused many Americans to be skeptical about getting inoculated. Below, Becker's compiled three of the biggest rumors surrounding vaccines and their origins.

  1. Infertility, a physician and a former Pfizer executive.
    Google searches for COVID-19 vaccines and infertility increased by 34,900 percent after Wolfgang Wodarg, MD, and former Pfizer Vice President Michael Yeadon submitted a petition in Europe with claims that the vaccine was linked to infertility.

    The Dec. 1 petition said female infertility could result from vaccine-induced antibodies. The petitioners acknowledged there wasn't evidence to back their claim up, a news release shared with Becker's said. Activists concerned with the safety of the vaccine used the petition to spread claims that the vaccine can cause infertility. The European Medicines Agency and the FDA said the petition's claims were insignificant, but the misinformation had already spread through social media.

    By March, researchers from Oklahoma State University in Stillwater and Tulsa, Okla.-based Ascension St. John Medical Center found Google searches had exploded. Searches for "infertility" increased 119.9 percent; searches for "infertility and vaccine" increased 11,241 percent; and searches for "infertility and COVID vaccine" rose 34,900 percent.

  2. TikTok's viral magnet challenge.
    The first video researchers could find claiming COVID-19 vaccines had magnets in them came from an April 28 tweet, according to the Virality Project. The video only garnered two likes. On May 9, a viral TikTok video claimed to show a refrigerator magnet sticking to the arm of a vaccinated person.

    The video gained 9.6 million views in just the first week. Soon after, the "Magnet Challenge" encouraged others to join the trend by falsely showcasing magnets sticking to arms where vaccine shots typically are injected. Some social media posts about the challenge were removed for misinformation or deleted. The Virality Project found on June 21 that there were about 130 TikTok videos and 6,897 tweets related to the challenge.

  3. Microchips backed by Bill Gates tracking patients' movements.
    In December 2019, Cambridge-based Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers received funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a tool that can keep vaccination records on a patient's skin with an ink-like injection that can be read by smartphones, according to Britannica. The technology doesn't have the capacity to track a patient's movements.

    Mr. Gates said March 18, 2020, that "digital certificates" could be used to tell who had been vaccinated. On March 19, 2020, a website called biohackinfo.com published a story with the headline "Bill Gates will use microchip implants to fight coronavirus." The Gates Foundation later said these certificates relate to open-source digital platforms, not microchips implanted into a vaccinated person's arm.

    On April 6, 2020, Emerald Robinson, a White House correspondent from Newsmax, published a tweet linking Bill Gates and tracking people. On April 8, 2020, Fox News host Laura Ingraham asked U.S. Attorney General William Barr how he felt about the hypothetical digital certificates, to which Mr. Barr replied he was concerned about civil liberties and "tracking people."

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