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Fact check: There is no evidence that mRNA vaccines would cause recipients to suffer from a ‘cytokine storm’

A post containing a lengthy quote allegedly written by an immunologist contains several false and unsupported claims over the use of mRNA vaccines.

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS

The 200-word quote, shared over 1,000 times in one post (here) refers to an mRNA vaccine is a “ticking time bomb” that will cause serious effects when faced with a “predetermined” variant of COVID-19, and maintains that none of the current vaccines are technically vaccines. The quote also includes the claim that this alleged variant will only be released when “everyone has been jabbed” to ensure a cure for the disease will not be possible.

“I used to work in the NHS as an immunologist, and the second i heard the phrase mRNA vaccine i knew exactly how it was likely to be used,” the quote reads. “In reality its a genetics altering ticking time bomb that will cause you to suffer a serious cytokine storm, when later challenged with a predetermined variant of the Covid 19 virus. My guess the later virus will be called Covid 21 or something similar. They need to wait until everyone has been jabbed causing everyone’s immune system to be genetically altered, so they can be sure there will be no patient zeros left anywhere in the world that could be used to create a cure from. Do not have any of the so called Covid vaccines as they will not reduce or prevent transmission of the virus, hence why they are not technically vaccines. They are clearly a Trojan horse designed to be activated by a later variant that contains a specific genetic marker that will trigger the inevitable and deadly auto immune response.”

In the post, the quote is attributed to an individual named ‘Andy Pears’ and carries a picture of what appears to be a staff card carrying that name and the logo of North Bristol NHS trust. NBT confirmed to Reuters on Jan. 20 that Pears had undertaken a student placement at the Trust around ten years earlier, but that there was no further educational or employment relationship with him. Reuters reached Pears through a Facebook message, but he was not available for comment.

CYTOKINE STORM

According to the text in the post, mRNA vaccines currently being administered for COVID-19 will pave the way to a “serious cytokine storm” if an immunised individual later comes face-to-face with a variant of the disease.

A cytokine storm describes a phenomenon in which the immune system goes into overdrive (here). It has been linked with severe cases of COVID-19 (here), although its significance in relation to the disease is still under question (here, here).

These studies, from 2012 and 2016, warned of the possibility of heightened immune responses in vaccinated mice that were later faced with live versions of the viruses (here, here, here). However, Kent Te-Chien Tseng, a professor of microbiology and immunology at The University of Texas, and one of the authors on the 2012 study, told Reuters that mRNA vaccines were “very different vaccine platforms” compared to those used nine years prior.

He said: “Yes, we need to be cautious on the safety issue of COVID-19 vaccines but should not be over panic/concern just based on our earlier report with mice. I feel our earlier report has raised that safety issue which has been taken seriously within the vaccine developers worldwide by different Institutions, such as WHO, NIAID, and many others.”

A team of global health scientists and infection preventionists at the Meedan Digital Health Lab said there was no evidence to suggest that mRNA COVID-19 vaccines or non-mRNA COVID-19 vaccines would result in cytokine storms (here).

VACCINE ELIGIBILITY

The text in the post states that COVID-19 vaccines “are not technically vaccines” because “they will not reduce or prevent transmission of the virus”.

A vaccine trains the body to fight a disease it has not faced before (here). This is what mRNA vaccines for COVID-19 also do – albeit in a different way than has been seen before. Earlier vaccinations involved injecting a person with a weakened or inactivated form of a virus, whereas mRNA vaccines instruct cells to make a specific protein that triggers an immune response (here).

These vaccines have been found to prevent symptomatic and severe effects of COVID-19 (here). Further research is needed to determine whether they also have an effect on transmission (here) as this was not tested in trials (here, here).

POPULATION VACCINATION

The quote in the text also appears to suggest the existence of an overarching plan to make sure every person receives a “Trojan horse” mRNA vaccine. “They need to wait until everyone has been jabbed causing everyone’s immune system to be genetically altered, so they can be sure there will be no patient zeros left anywhere in the world that could be used to create a cure from,” it reads.

However, there is no evidence of such a plan as this would require mandatory mRNA vaccinations. The UK government has repeatedly said it would not make any COVID-19 vaccines compulsory - mRNA or otherwise (here, here). Of the three vaccines approved for use in the UK on Jan. 20, just two use mRNA: those from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna. The third, developed by Oxford/AstraZeneca, is an adenovirus vectored vaccine (here).

VERDICT

False. Experts say there is no evidence to suggest mRNA vaccines will cause a cytokine storm when an immunised individual is faced with a live variant of COVID-19. The mRNA vaccines developed against COVID-19 are a new type of vaccine, and there is no plan in the UK to make vaccination compulsory.

Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts here .

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