Fact Check-Western Australian legislation uses ‘poison’ as a catch-all legal term; it is not implying something sinister

Suggestions on social media that Western Australia has slyly admitted to harming its citizens by classifying COVID-19 vaccines as “poison” reveals a misunderstanding of legal language. The definition of “poison” in legislation differs from its day-to-day meaning.

One video, viewed 25,000 times, features a narrator reading through the legislative instrument that gives Western Australia the legal authority to begin administering COVID-19 vaccines (here). This instrument is called: “Authorisation to Supply or Administer a Poison [SARS-COV-2 (COVID-19) VACCINE – Australian Defence Force] (No.2) 2021” (here).

“Why are they called the so-called vaccine a poison?” the narrator asks. “That’s how far this tyranny goes; they can actually give you poison […] So even if they kill somebody they can go, ‘Well, I told you it was a poison.’ What the heck is wrong with people? Medical tyranny. It’s disgusting.”

The narrator also links the word “poison” to its definition as found in his Google search: “A substance that is capable of causing the illness or death of a living organism when introduced or absorbed” (

While the video’s narrator was correct in reading the ordinary meaning of “poison”, he appears to misunderstand that its definition in Australian legalese is different.

“Poison is a generic term that includes what the general public understands to be a poison, but extends to over-the-counter medicines and prescription medicines,” Dr. Marco Rizzi, a specialist in medical law at the University of Western Australia, previously told Reuters (here).

It is therefore a catch-all term for substances that interact with physiological functions of the body (here) – from over-the-counter medications like paracetamol (schedule two) to banned substances like heroin (schedule nine).

COVID-19 vaccines are schedule four poisons (here), meaning they are prescription-only medicines that should be administered only by trained professionals; you cannot buy a vaccine at a local shop and inject yourself.

Rizzi added: “Defining the COVID-19 vaccine as a ‘poison’ does not mean the Australian governments consider it ‘dangerous’; at least no more dangerous than any other medicine that requires prescription.”


Missing context. Western Australian legalese uses the word “poison” as a term to describe all substances that interact with physiological functions of the body. It does not suggest vaccines are dangerous.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts .