VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Microchips, quantum dots and other coronavirus conspiracy theories

Apart from the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) itself, there is a battle being waged against vaccine hesitancy and vaccine-related misinformation.

This month, one post detected by VERA Files Fact Check circulating on Facebook (FB) aimed to further a conspiracy theory about a “plan demic” involving microchips implanted into individuals who get vaccinated against COVID-19 for tracking purposes. This is false and has been debunked by health experts and fact-checkers alike. (See: VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Conspiracy theories on COVID-19 vaccines having microchips revived)

The post claimed that the vaccine will come in the form of “quantum dots” and that the public will be part of an identification system called “ID2020.” This conspiracy holds no ground.

Falsely tagged as one of the “globalists” behind the “plan demic” is Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates.

A staunch advocate of vaccination against COVID-19, the business magnate has been a target of disinformation peddled by anti-vaxxers and COVID-19 non-believers.

Claims involving Gates and the microchip technology could be traced to a March 18, 2020 COVID-19 “Ask Me Anything (AMA)” event on Reddit. In his answers to Redditors, he stressed the importance of a “national testing network and database” that will organize COVID-19 testing in the United States.

He also mentioned how “digital certificates” will be available soon, which will make it easier for authorities to identify those who were already tested and vaccinated.

A day after the AMA online forum, website biohackinfo.com published an article claiming Gates “will use microchip implants to fight coronavirus,” even if he did not mention anything about microchipping in the Reddit event.

What was referenced in biohackinfo’s piece are the “digital certificates” Gates mentioned, which the article said are in the form of “quantum-dot tattoos” — a term also carried by the spurious posts making rounds on FB.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation — a group established by the tycoon and his wife — told FactCheck.org in April 2020 that Gates mentioned “digital certificates” in his Reddit AMA event as part “of an effort to create a digital platform that would expand home-based, self-administered testing for COVID-19.”

It is not the same as the “quantum-dot tattoos” the conspiracy theorists are referring to.

The use of quantum dots under an unrelated technology was developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), with funding from the Gates Foundation, prior to the pandemic.

A December 2019 MIT press release stated that the said technology aims to do an “on-patient storage of vaccination history” using an invisible “quantum dot dye” that will be administered alongside vaccines through a microneedle patch and will be situated just below the skin’s surface.

A “specially adapted smartphone” would be able to detect the dye and access an individual’s vaccination records stored in it for at least five years.

Kevin McHugh, a professor of bioengineering at Rice University and one of the study’s researchers, told FactCheck.org that “remote or continuous tracking” of someone using the quantum-dot markings “is simply not possible,” as these invisible dots “require direct line-of-sight imaging from a distance of less than 1 foot” for it to be detected.

He also said in the MIT press release that the technology was designed for places where peoples’ medical records are not easily accessible, if not completely unavailable. “(It) could enable the rapid and anonymous detection of patient vaccination history to ensure that every child is vaccinated,” he added.

McHugh clarified in an April 2020 fact check article by Reuters that he is not aware of any plans to utilize the quantum dot dye technology in combating COVID-19.

Meanwhile, the “ID2020” mentioned in the circulating lengthy FB post appears to refer to an alliance project of various international organizations — Microsoft included — advocating for “ethical, privacy-protecting approaches” to digital identity.

That ID2020 is related to quantum dot technology and the COVID-19 pandemic is unsubstantiated.

“To beat COVID-19, we also need to defeat the parallel pandemic of mistrust that has consistently hindered our collective response to this disease, and that could undermine our shared ability to vaccinate against it,” said International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies president Francesco Rocca in November ahead of a United Nations High-Level Special Session on the COVID-19 pandemic.

(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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