Outrage has spread online that Afghan refugees entering the United States will receive the drug ivermectin although it does not have U.S. approval as a COVID-19 treatment. However, the posts miss the vital context that refugees are given ivermectin for infections unrelated to the novel coronavirus.
The claims originated on Twitter when users shared a screenshot from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website saying that all Middle Eastern, Asian, North African, Latin American, and Caribbean refugees should receive ivermectin two days before departure to the United States (here). Internet archives suggest the page first appeared on April 3, 2021 (here).
One tweet posted on Sept. 2 reads: “Guess who is getting IVERMECTIN before they arrive. AFGHANISTAN REFUGEES!” (here). Another expressed anger that U.S. citizens were encouraged to get “the vaccine”, presumably referring to immunisation against COVID-19, but had difficulty getting hold of ivermectin (here ).
Misleading theories embracing ivermectin as a COVID-19 treatment have spread online throughout the pandemic and often run alongside anti-vaccine narratives (here , here). At the time of writing, ivermectin is not approved to treat or prevent COVID-19 in the United States (here), Britain (here) or the European Union (here).
A recent feature on ivermectin by National Geographic, a global non-profit organisation, cast doubt on the science cited as evidence of the drug’s value as a COVID-19 cure and interviewed industry experts. Michael Teng, a health virologist at the University of South Florida, told them: “It’s troubling that people are putting their faith in a drug not proven to be effective against COVID. I wish people would just take the vaccine.” (here).
Despite this evidence, the Twitter claims followed the usual pattern and bled into Facebook timelines (here , here , here , here), with many posts linking a separate CDC file from 2019 reiterating that some refugees should receive ivermectin (here).
However, none of the documents states that refugees should be given ivermectin to prevent or treat COVID-19. The CDC webpage depicted in the tweets states that ivermectin is administered as a “presumptive treatment for intestinal parasites” (bit.ly/3n4g2eq), a fact repeated in the 2019 CDC document (here , page three, paragraph one).
Ivermectin has long been used to treat parasitic infections in humans and animals, but the products are different. This is explained by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) (here , here) and the UK government (here). However, the FDA says it has received multiple reports of patients being hospitalised after using ivermectin intended for horses.
Missing context. The United States recommends certain refugees receive ivermectin to treat parasitic worms, not COVID-19.
This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here .
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