Covid-19: Debunking the latest wave of medical misinformation

Posted: April 19th 2021


In the world of social media there is no story without many associated conspiracy theories. Here are a few of the latest along with an explanation as to why they are untrue!

Posts spreading unverified theories about the pandemic continue to spread on social media platforms.

We've examined the latest wave of false information covering subjects including Covid testing kits and vaccines.

Test swabs don't contain cancer-causing chemical

Lateral flow tests for coronavirus are becoming widespread in workplaces and schools, but viral Facebook posts are incorrectly claiming that they are a cancer risk.

The videos and photos claim that they contain ethylene oxide, a known carcinogen. The packaging for the NHS test kits says "sterilised in ethylene oxide", but this only tells part of the story.

The Department of Health and Social Care told us that while the chemical is used in gaseous form to sterilise test swabs, the amounts used are well within safety limits and are "rigorously tested and are safe to use on a regular basis".

Misunderstanding miscarriages

A blog post claiming that rates of miscarriage "as a result" of receiving a Covid-19 vaccine have increased by 366% has been shared widely on social media.

There is no evidence that Covid-19 vaccines can increase the risk of miscarriage.

The figures used in the blog post are a distorted interpretation of data from the yellow card scheme of the UK medicines regulator, the MHRA. The scheme allows health professionals and the public to report medical incidents or suspected side effects of medicines, so that their quality and safety can be monitored and very rare side effects picked up.

Data showing a miscarriage occurred after a vaccine does not mean that the two events are linked.

Mutant claims go viral

A recent cause taken up by anti-vaccination activists concerns the spread of new coronavirus variants.

Many referred to statements published by Geert Vanden Bossche, a Belgian veterinarian and vaccine researcher.

He says he supports vaccines, but in a series of letters warns about the dangers of Covid-19 vaccinations, which he says risk creating new variants of coronavirus that may "result in a global catastrophe without equal".

The World Health Organization says that as more people get vaccinated it expects "virus circulation to decrease, which will then lead to fewer mutations."

All viruses mutate as they make copies of themselves to spread and thrive.

Viruses do this in different ways, including while inside the bodies of people who have already been vaccinated but who are still developing an immune response. This may drive the virus to evolve to escape the effects of such immunity.

Scientists are studying whether the vaccines still work against new strains of the virus and from where such mutations come.