Two videos of a woman convulsing and experiencing tongue spasm are making the rounds on the Web, her conditions being blamed on her inoculation with a COVID-19 vaccine developed by Moderna, Inc. This is misleading.
The woman in the video is Shawn Skelton, a resident of Indiana state in the United States. On Jan. 7 (U.S. time), she uploaded the two videos on her Facebook (FB) account and cautioned people against the Moderna vaccine.
Skelton said that her tongue started spasming two days after being vaccinated on Jan. 4, followed by full-body convulsions on the third day. A week later, Skelton wrote in an FB post that her MRI and CT scans “(were) perfect,” giving her “no answers” as to what might have caused her shaking. She continues to warn the public about getting jabs of Moderna’s vaccine.
Skelton’s videos — which already accumulated a total of 280,000 shares and 15.7 million views — circulated among Filipino netizens after they were shown in the Jan. 18 FB Live of the page Lynn Channel, which has been peddling COVID-19 disinformation.
The FB page showed parts of Skelton’s videos and described the involuntary movements as being the “effect” of the vaccine. This was recorded and uploaded by at least two netizens and one FB page last Jan. 23 and 24.
Health experts convened by nonprofit organization Meedan told VERA Files Fact Check that because vaccines imitate real infections, “some bodies develop real symptoms” in trying to fight it off.
But they said of the nearly 55 million doses of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines given as of Jan. 25, “medical research has not found the symptoms of shaking, convulsions, or tongue spasms as known side effects of the vaccine.”
The United States Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System also “has yet to receive any reports” from patients experiencing convulsions after getting the vaccine, Meedan’s experts said.
According to a Jan. 12 report by Evansville Courier & Press, a local news organization in Indiana, Skelton’s partner Rich Vidiella said doctors from a neuroscience hospital told them the convulsions were likely “stress-related.”
Vidiella was quoted saying that they were told if a person fails to relieve his or her stress, the body “will figure out the shortest way for it to come out” — either through a stroke, a heart attack, or body convulsions.
Recorded side effects of Moderna’s product include injection site pain, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, joint pain, and chills, as stated in a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) briefing document for the vaccine. Frequency of its serious adverse effects was low and less common among individuals 65 years old and above.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said side effects “are normal signs that your body is building protection” against a disease. The CDC also told Evansville Courier & Press, as it weighed in on Skelton’s claims, that side effects “tend to be mild to moderate and go away quickly.”
The American health agency also said serious side effects after vaccination with the COVID-19 vaccine “were very rare.”
Meanwhile, Meedan’s experts told VERA Files it is recommended that people who have had previous allergic reactions to vaccines to not receive COVID-19 vaccines, “because in very few cases they can cause allergic reactions.”
The same advice was given by physician Paul Offit, who sits in the U.S. FDA’s vaccine advisory committee, in Politifact’s Jan. 20 fact check article on Skelton’s videos.
When vaccines are being distributed on such a wide scale, some little known side effects may be reported during the rollout that “may or may not be related to the vaccine itself,” Meedan’s experts added. This should be reported to a physician or regulatory agency and medical treatment should be sought immediately, they said.
The health professionals also remind social media users to be critical when consuming COVID-19 related content online. They said Skelton’s case is “likely a coincidence and not caused by the vaccine itself,” and that posts that might sow mistrust in COVID-19 vaccines “should be highly scrutinized and evaluated by scientists and medical professionals.”
According to Bloomberg’s COVID-19 vaccine tracker, 71.3 million doses of several COVID-19 vaccines have already been administered across 57 countries. The Philippines has yet to roll out its vaccination program, but the local FDA already granted Pfizer, Inc. and BioNTech’s vaccine an emergency use authorization last Jan. 14. On Jan. 28, AstraZeneca was given the nod by the FDA.
The circulating posts drew mixed reactions from Filipino FB users, with Lynn Channel’s viewers thanking the page for the information it shared, while the short clip uploaded by FB accounts were decried by netizens as “not true” and “nonsense.”
One copy of the video uploaded by a private FB user was shared 134,000 times before it was taken down, while another has over 200 shares and remains live. A third one, published by FB page Viral Video PH, has received as many as 25,000 shares.