VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Post makes WRONG claims about ‘toxic substances’ in COVID-19 vaccines, repeats old falsehoods

Facebook (FB) page Lynn Channel, which has published coronavirus-related disinformation in the past, has again spread wrong and misleading information about vaccines for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

In a FB Live video on Dec. 5, the page, managed by a United Kingdom-based Filipino, warned viewers that they are putting “toxic substances” like mercury, aluminum, and formalin (formaldehyde) in their bodies if they get inoculated with the COVID-19 vaccines.

The claim on mercury is false, while the claims about aluminum and formalin need context.

Mercury

Lynn Channel wrongly claimed that the mercury used in vaccines is the same one used in thermometers.

Vaccines use thiomersal (also called thimerosal), which contains ethylmercury, an organic mercury compound that prevents bacterial and fungal growth in multi-dose inactivated vaccines, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

This is different from the mercury (methylmercury) that in high amounts can cause poisoning, and from the mercury found in thermometers (metallic mercury).

There is also no evidence to suggest that the amounts of thiomersal used in vaccines pose a health risk, according to the WHO.

The United States (U.S.) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also said in an information page that the low doses of thiomersal in vaccines do not cause harm, except for “minor reactions like redness and swelling at the injection site.”

The WHO said the vaccines for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTP), hepatitis B, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), rabies, influenza and meningococcal diseases are among those that contain such preservatives.

Aluminum, formalin

Meanwhile, Lynn Channel’s claims about aluminum and formalin need context.

In an interview with VERA Files on Nov. 19, molecular biologist Denise Bascos said alum, also called potassium aluminum sulfate, is the most common adjuvant for protein-based vaccines such as the one being developed by Clover Biopharmaceutical AUS Pty. Ltd.

“Most proteins cannot trigger an immune response on their own since our bodies are basically built to tolerate them most of the time. Adjuvants are molecules that basically supply these ‘damage’ or danger signals in vaccine preparations that tell the body that what is being introduced is dangerous because it is related to cell damage,” she said.

Vaccines made with aluminum only have a very small amount in them and they have been tested and proven to be safe, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

On the other hand, formalin is used as an inactivating ingredient to weaken, kill viruses, bacteria or toxins in vaccines. Like thiomersal, it is also a preservative. During production, formalin is removed in vaccines through a purification process, according to the WHO.

Experts have also said the very small amounts of formaldehyde left in vaccines is not considered dangerous.

International fact-checking organizations Reuters and Full Fact have debunked similar inaccurate claims about “toxic” substances in vaccines this year.

Lynn Channel repeats already-disproven claims

Lynn Channel’s 48-minute video also echoed various statements and conspiracy theories that have already been debunked by multiple fact-checkers worldwide:

  • That there is “no need for vaccines to extinguish the pandemic.” This is false.
  • That “you do not vaccinate people who aren’t at risk from a disease.” Not true.
  • That vaccines have not “been extensively tested on human subjects.” Many are undergoing clinical trials involving thousands of people.
  • That COVID-19 is transmitted through “aerosols.” This needs context.
  • That COVID-19 tests are “useless” because they do not detect “clinical infections.” This is misleading. What PCR tests determine is the presence of SARS-CoV-2 viral genetic material in a patient.
  • That people in nursing homes need to be given three to five thousand international units of Vitamin D.” This is not proven.
  • That the virus which causes COVID-19 is “man-made from the laboratory.” Unproven.

The global caseload for the disease is at 72.2 million confirmed cases, with 1.6 million deaths based on the WHO COVID-19 Dashboard as of Dec. 16. The Philippines’ Department of Health (DOH) also recorded the total number of cases at 452,988 as of the same date, with 8,833 deaths and 24,873 active cases.

As of writing, there is still no approved COVID-19 vaccine for distribution in the Philippines. Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Singh-Vergeire said in a Dec. 7 media forum that two candidates have received “positive recommendation” from the Vaccine Experts Panel and three have been approved by the Ethics Review Board.

The WHO Solidarity Vaccine Trials may start in January, the Department of Science and Technology said on Dec. 4.

The false post has been shared over 3,500 times and gained 33,000 views on FB. Lynn Channel was created on Feb. 10 with a potential reach of 75,474 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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