Fact Check-No evidence the COVID-19 vaccine will make the common cold or the flu ‘extremely lethal’

A screenshot of a post in online internet forum 4Chan that is making rounds on social media alleges the COVID-19 vaccine will make the common cold or the flu “more lethal” – but experts contacted by Reuters said this claim and others made in the post are baseless.

Instagram posts with the screenshot, which have gained over 4,420 likes, can be seen here , here and here .

The 4Chan post, identifiable as being from 4Chan by the green font in the word “Anonymous”, says the COVID-19 vaccine “is designed to work in conjunction with the common cold” and that it will make both the common cold and the flu “extremely lethal.”

Experts disagree.

“There is nothing contained in any of the COVID-19 vaccines that would alter the severity of the common cold or influenza, and most certainly will not make any infection more lethal,” Daniel Kuritzkes, chief of the infectious diseases division at Brigham and Women’s Hospital told Reuters via email. He added that entire post is “utter nonsense.”

Likewise, Dr Donald Burke, epidemiologist and former dean of the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, referred to the claims in the post as “gibberish” and nonsense.

“There is absolutely no evidence” to claim the vaccine will make the common cold or the flu more lethal, he said in a statement emailed to Reuters. He noted that “participants in vaccine trials did not have excess mortality due to common colds or flu.”

The post also claims that the “deaths” because of the purported conjunction of COVID-19 vaccines and the flu will be attributed to a new COVID-19 variant, but this is also misleading.

The three illnesses mentioned in this post are respiratory, but all are caused by different viruses: influenza viruses cause the flu, while a type of coronavirus leads to COVID-19 ( here ).

Rhinoviruses are the most common cause of the common cold ( here ). Common human coronaviruses can also cause common colds in people ( here , here ), but these aren’t considered as dangerous as the coronaviruses that turned into severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) in 2002, Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in 2012, and now the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) ( here ).

The COVID-19 variants, which the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains here were expected as with any virus, “are in no way related to the common cold or the influenza viruses,” Burke said. A New York Times tracker of the COVID-19 variants can be seen here .

Moreover, the argument that the COVID-19 vaccination was not “mass deployed” until the end of flu season because of “argument”, is flawed, Kuritzkes noted, as the flu season begins at different times of the year in the northern and southern hemisphere ( here. ).

Other Reuters fact check articles on COVID-19 vaccine misinformation can be found here , here , here , here ).


False. There is no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine will make the common cold or the flu “more lethal”, experts say; a 4Chan post includes this and other baseless claims.

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