Busted: 3 dangerous social-media myths about COVID-19 vaccines

A young woman in a mask sits while receiving a shot from a health worker in protective gear.
Student Akemi De La Cruz, 17, is vaccinated against COVID-19 at San Pedro Senior High School on May 24.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

Some COVID-19 vaccine myths are outrageously false. Yet they spread like wildfire on social media and can play a role in persuading some people to hold off on getting a shot.

Some of the people writing or spreading the myths are trying to attract attention or profit off of peddling lies, says Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer. One spreader of myths earned more than $34,000 in donations off their Facebook page, she said.

“Don’t get played by these people,” Ferrer said. “Social media has made it possible for ... the myth spreaders themselves to actually make some money by circulating harmful falsehoods.”


Here are some statements of fact, framed to rebut myths Ferrer has heard recently.

The vaccines cannot spread the virus.

It is impossible for COVID-19 vaccines available in the U.S. to spread the coronavirus. The vaccines don’t contain any part of a coronavirus — “live, dead, in parts or in whole” — Ferrer said.

“Because of this,” she said, “people who get vaccinated do not become infected with COVID-19.”

COVID-19 vaccines can produce generally mild side effects, such as tiredness, headache, muscle pain and fever, but those symptoms generally go away after a day or so.

“You are not contagious with these side effects. It’s your body responding to the pumping of your system to be able to produce the antibodies you would need to fight off this infection,” Ferrer said. “These side effects go away on their own, unlike COVID infection itself, which lasts often for a while and can cause very serious illness.”

They don’t contain magnetic microchips.

One video on Facebook making such false claims that has received tens of thousands of shares on the social media platform contains manipulated footage, Ferrer said.

COVID-19 vaccines do not cause fertility problems.

These rumors originated in a petition that began circulating in the United Kingdom aiming to stop COVID-19 vaccine trials, Ferrer said.


“The author of this petition was a scientist that was formerly employed by Pfizer ... who had some disappointing things happen near the end of his career,” she said.

“The petition falsely claimed that an amino acid sequence and protein that forms that spiky crown of the virus that causes COVID is the same as the one in a protein on the surface of placental cells ... and that vaccines, therefore, that target this protein are going to lead the body to attack pregnancies, resulting in miscarriages.

“The protein on the virus, and the protein on the placenta, are both spike proteins. But ... there are different spike proteins, and your antibodies can and do tell the difference,” Ferrer added.

“Additionally, both the vaccine trials and subsequent studies have shown that vaccines are extremely safe in pregnancy.

“Among nearly 4,000 pregnant women who’ve received the vaccine since they were approved, pregnancies have been as safe as they were among women who hadn’t received the vaccines.”