A roundup of some of the most popular but completely untrue stories and visuals of the week. None of these are legit, even though they were shared widely on social media. The Associated Press checked them out. Here are the facts:
No evidence COVID-19 vaccines create new virus variants
CLAIM: The variants of the coronavirus that have been found in the global population were created by COVID-19 vaccines, because the vaccines caused people to develop antibodies and forced the virus to evolve.
THE FACTS: An article quoting a virologist known for spreading conspiracy theories about the coronavirus is pushing the false claim that COVID-19 vaccines were the catalyst that caused new variants of the virus to emerge around the globe. “Bombshell: Nobel Prize Winner Reveals – Covid Vaccine is ‘Creating Variants,’” reads the headline of the article, which has been shared thousands of times on Facebook. The article claims that the vaccines forced the virus to “‘find another solution’ or die,” thus producing the known coronavirus variants. The article attributes the claim to Luc Montagnier, who won the Nobel Prize in 2008 for discovering HIV and has spread false claims about the coronavirus.
It is published on the website of the RAIR Foundation, which describes itself as a “grassroots activist organization” aiming to “combat the threats from Islamic supremacists, radical leftists and their allies.” Experts contacted by The Associated Press explained that coronavirus variants found across the globe began emerging long before vaccines were widely available. They said the evidence suggests new variants evolved as a result of prolonged viral infections in the population, not vaccines, which are designed to prevent such infections.
“There’s no evidence that the vaccines create new variants, largely because vaccination appears to shut down viral infections, prevent people from spreading it to others,” said Dr. Stuart Ray, a professor at Johns Hopkins University’s medical school. “If the virus can’t spread, it doesn’t have the opportunity to evolve.”
With some viruses, such as dengue virus, scientists have observed a phenomenon called antibody-dependent enhancement, in which antibodies generated by a past infection or a vaccine will bind to a viral pathogen but not neutralize it. This can cause people who have antibodies to experience more severe symptoms if they are infected later. However, this phenomenon has not been observed with the coronavirus or vaccines to prevent it. Montagnier did not respond to a request for comment.
— Associated Press writer Ali Swenson in Semora, North Carolina, contributed this report.
COVID-19 vaccines do not wipe out antibodies
CLAIM: The Red Cross says if you recovered from COVID-19 and had a vaccine, you cannot donate blood plasma because the vaccine wipes out natural antibodies.
THE FACTS: The Red Cross says that statement is inaccurate and COVID-19 vaccines do not wipe out antibodies, according to experts. As of March 26, the Red Cross discontinued the dedicated collection of COVID-19 convalescent plasma due to declining demand from hospitals and a sufficient industry supply. Posts online are now misrepresenting the change and are spreading the false claim that the Red Cross is no longer taking any plasma donations from those who have had the COVID-19 virus and received a vaccine. Social media users are sharing a February clip from KMOV-4, a CBS-affiliate news station in Missouri, where the anchor incorrectly says the Red Cross is no longer accepting convalescent plasma from people who are vaccinated because COVID-19 vaccines wipe out natural antibodies.
“If you have had covid and recovered you can donate plasma to help save lifes UNLESS YOU GET THE VACCINE after having recovered,” reads an inaccurate tweet that shared the video. Red Cross spokeswoman Katie Wilkes told The Associated Press that her organization had reached out to the news station to correct the information, since it is not correct that vaccines wipe out natural antibodies. Wilkes also said that even though the dedicated convalescent plasma program was discontinued, vaccinated people are still able to participate in blood drives.
“In most cases, you can donate blood, platelets and plasma after a COVID-19 vaccine as long as you’re feeling healthy and well,” she said. KMOV-4 updated their story on May 27. “Today News4 updated a story we reported in February,” a station spokesperson told the AP in an email. “At that time, a representative of the American Red Cross said the organization’s policy was to discourage convalescent plasma donations from donors who previously had COVID-19 and were then vaccinated because of a then-belief about antibodies.”
Experts say the recent posts about antibodies get it all wrong. Dr. C. Buddy Creech, a Vanderbilt University vaccine expert, said there is no reason to suspect that COVID-19 vaccines would diminish antibodies. In fact, vaccines should boost them. Vaccines produce a more consistent immune response to the coronavirus, since mild infections lead to lower antibody levels than more severe infections, Creech explained. “This is why those who have been infected still benefit from vaccination; that vaccine will then serve to boost the immune response that was made during the initial infection,” Creech said in an email.
— Associated Press writer Beatrice Dupuy in New York contributed this report.
NY Post 1987 cover with Fauci is fake
CLAIM: The front page of a New York Post newspaper shows an image of Dr. Anthony Fauci under the headline, “THE MAN WHO GAVE US AIDS.”
THE FACTS: The supposed cover is fake. The image of the newspaper’s front page was manipulated to show a photo of Fauci under the headline, “Triggered ‘gay cancer’ epidemic in the U.S. THE MAN WHO GAVE US AIDS,” to give the false impression that a 1987 article was about him. The Post did run that headline on Oct. 6, 1987, but the actual story was about a different individual and did not mention Fauci — nor did it include his photo.
Kenneth Moy, head librarian at the Post, shared with The Associated Press a scanned copy of the authentic front page and accompanying article that showed the real story focused on so-called “Patient Zero,” a gay man who was accused of bringing HIV to the United States. Scientists now say that assumption was wrong, and that HIV appeared in the U.S. at an earlier date. During the AIDS epidemic, Fauci was appointed director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. At the height of the crisis, Fauci and other government officials were criticized by AIDS activists for how they handled developing and administering treatments for the disease.
— Associated Press writer Terrence Fraser in New York contributed this report.
Video of Ted Cruz supposedly swallowing a fly was edited
CLAIM: Video shows Texas Sen. Ted Cruz swallowing a fly during a Fox News interview.
THE FACTS: The video circulating on social media was manipulated and was first shared on Reddit last year as a joke with the title “Ted Cruz Eats Spider.” On June 27, 2019, Cruz, the Republican senator, appeared on the Fox News show “Hannity,” but there was no crawling critter in the original clip. In the original video, Cruz’s voice cracks and Hannity tells him, “Take a sip of water. By the way, that’s your Marco Rubio moment, just in case you didn’t know.”
A clip of Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida sipping from a water bottle during a speech was widely shared in 2013. In the edited video of Cruz, which has no audio, some kind of crawling pest has been added. Social media users compared the edited video to the time a fly landed on Vice President Mike Pence’s head during a debate with then-vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris last October. “Remember that fly on Pence’s head? Well Ted Cruz ate it last night,” wrote an Instagram user who shared the manipulated video. Twitter users shared the manipulated video with the hashtag #ToadCruz.
— Arijeta Lajka