VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Filipina vlogger makes FALSE claims on RT-PCR test, vaccines

In a Facebook Live video on July 26, vlogger Lynn Agno wrongly claimed that the United States’ (U.S.) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is pulling its reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test for its “inaccuracy.”

This has been disproven by the CDC and fact-checking organizations abroad.

Agno, who has been fact-checked by VERA Files Fact Check for her false claims on COVID-19 vaccines and the COVID-19 virus, SARS-CoV-2, also said a “mandatory vaccination” bill is in third reading at the Senate. This is untrue.

Meanwhile, her claim that unvaccinated children are healthier than those who are vaccinated lacks support.

The United Kingdom-based vlogger’s erroneous video surfaced a day after the Department of Health (DOH) reported 119 cases of the highly-contagious Delta variant in the Philippines.

VERA Files Fact Check debunks the three claims below:

Claim

Rating

The CDC is pulling out RT-PCR testing because it cannot differentiate between COVID-19 and the flu.

False

This is a wrong interpretation of a recent announcement from the CDC.

In a July 21 lab alert, the American health authority advised clinical laboratories to start switching to other testing methods for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) as it would withdraw by Dec. 31 its emergency use request with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the CDC 2019-Novel Coronavirus (2019 nCoV) Real-Time RT-PCR test. The said test detects only SARS-CoV-2.

This withdrawal is not due to the kit “failing to differentiate” SARS-CoV-2 from the flu virus, contrary to the vlogger’s claim. It is being done to encourage the use of other testing methods that can simultaneously detect more than one infectious organism (such as both SARS-CoV-2 and flu viruses) to save time and resources as the U.S. approaches its flu season, the CDC said.

"Although the CDC 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019 nCoV) Real-Time RT-PCR Diagnostic Panel met an important unmet need when it was developed and deployed and has not demonstrated any performance issues, the demand for this test has declined with the emergence of other higher-throughput and multiplexed assays," CDC spokesperson Jasmine Reed said in an email to Health Feedback, a fact checking organization that verifies the credibility of influential health claims and media reports that claim to be scientific.

Reed added that they are now encouraging the use of the CDC Influenza SARS-CoV-2 (Flu SC2) Multiplex Assay, the CDC’s testing kit designed to detect three viruses, namely, the Influenza A and B viruses and SARS-CoV-2.

The false claim has also been fact checked by several other newsrooms such as Reuters Fact Check, PolitiFact and FactCheck.org.

The CDC is a U.S. government organization responsible for keeping Americans safe from threats to their health, safety and security. It does not manage nor dictate the “global pandemic response,” contrary to what Agno claimed.

Agno likewise repeated her erroneous claim that scientists have not been able to isolate the virus causing COVID-19, which has already been debunked by VERA Files Fact Check.

Claim

Rating

A mandatory vaccination bill is in third reading at the Senate

False

This is also not true. There is currently no bill filed at the Senate seeking to mandatorily vaccinate Filipinos of all ages, for COVID-19 or other diseases.

At the House of Representatives, Rep. Elpidio Barzaga of Dasmariñas, Cavite filed in April House Bill 9252 which proposes to make vaccination against COVID-19 mandatory “for persons as may be determined by the DOH.” It has been pending with the House committee on health since May. Barzaga has said deliberations may start this August or September.

Claim

Rating

A [study] has revealed that children are “healthier” if they are unvaccinated.

No Basis

Agno gave no proof to support this allegation.

But similar claims have been fact checked in the past. In 2017, Snopes flagged a misleading study published that year claiming there was a higher rate of autism among vaccinated children.

Snopes pointed out that there were several problems with the research: it had flawed statistical analyses and study design, and it had no explicit hypothesis which made its data “vulnerable to confirmation bias.” Its lead author was also a vocal supporter of a key anti-vaccine advocate and the study itself was funded by anti-vaccine groups.

In 2020, Health Feedback fact-checked another misleading study that claimed vaccinated children were more likely to have developmental delays, asthma and ear infections.

Health Feedback pointed out that the research had “questionable methods of selecting a study population” and that it failed to control for differences between vaccinated and unvaccinated children, which could have influenced health outcomes.

For example, an epidemiology expert consulted by Health Feedback pointed out that vaccinated children were more likely to see a doctor when unwell, compared to unvaccinated children. This means vaccinated children are more likely to be diagnosed with medical conditions, but does not mean that vaccination caused it.

Health Feedback also flagged the study’s authors, one of whom had done a study using “fraudulent methods and failed to disclose conflicts of interest” that could affect the study’s outcome, while the other author had a history of publishing other questionable research.

The DOH, in its frequently asked questions on immunization, highlighted the importance of inoculating infants and children to give them immunity against vaccine preventable diseases early in life, and that vaccines are tested to make sure they are safe and effective.

As of writing, Agno’s false video has accumulated over 46,000 views on Facebook, and has received over 2,700 reactions, 1,700 comments, and 5,000 shares.

Agno previously published her videos on the pages Lynn Channel and Lynn Channel Warriors of Truth, which have since been taken down for repeatedly sharing disinformation. She has continued posting COVID-19- and vaccine-related disinformation on her personal account, which currently has over 37,500 followers.


(Editor's Note: VERA Files has partnered with Facebook to fight the spread of disinformation. Find out more about this partnership and our methodology.)

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The document has not been peer-reviewed and is currently being assessed.

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