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Fact check: Tackling false COVID-19 claims in 30-minute doctor compilation video

Social media users have been sharing a 28-minute video online in which a multitude of doctors make various claims about the novel coronavirus and the global pandemic of 2020. This article aims to address some claims presented in the video that have been proven to be false. Many of the other claims fall outside the scope of this fact check or veer into opinion.

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS

Examples of the video can be seen here and here . The video was flagged as part of Facebook’s effort to combat misinformation.

According to data from CrowdTangle, a social media monitoring and research tool, the video was first shared in early December 2020. Some versions have since been taken down. It has been reuploaded on BitChute here and Brand New Tube here .

In the video, 33 people are identified as retired or active medical doctors, journalists, a psychiatrist, a molecular biologist, an immunologist, a general practitioner, a holistic dentist, a homeopath, a chiropractic physician, a retired nurse, a health scientist, a physician, a natural nurse, a retired pharmacist, an acupuncturist, a metaphysicist, and a neurologist.

These speakers are identified as being from a variety of countries including the United Kingdom, the United States, Belgium, Norway, Netherlands, Germany, Ireland, Sweden, Poland, and Spain.

DOWNPLAYING THE PANDEMIC

The video makes several claims which downplay the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic and the necessity of preventative measures against it.

PANDEMIC IS NOT REAL, COVID-19 DOES NOT EXIST

In the video, many of the speakers say that the virus or pandemic does not exist. While the speakers say it in various ways, some say almost the exact same phrase: “COVID-19 is not a real medical pandemic”. Examples of this claim being made can be seen in this video here at 0:12, 0:53, 2:05, 7:38, 9:40, 10:45, 12:03, 18:38, 20:48, 25:08, 26:27.

Reuters Fact check has repeatedly debunked false claims that COVID-19 and the pandemic is a hoax here , here , and here .

As of Dec. 17, 2020, at least 1,655,425 people globally have died from COVID-19 and 73,678,950 have been infected (here). The virus is recognized by health agencies, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) ( here , here ) as well as national governments and medical organizations around the world.

The WHO explains on its website that the COVID-19 disease is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that the world became aware of on Dec. 31, 2019, after reports of “viral pneumonia” cases in Wuhan, China (here). 

The virus was identified by Chinese authorities on Jan. 7, 2020 (tinyurl.com/y5at3vke), after which its genetic material (RNA) was sequenced (here).

Other scientific studies isolating the virus itself, proving it isn’t a fabricated disease, can be seen here , here  and here . Scientific studies showing the effects it has on people who become infected and its transmissibility can be seen here , here  and here .

PANDEMIC WAS OVER IN THE SUMMER

A speaker in the video claims at the 5:35 mark that the pandemic was over in the summer. This claim is false.

The WHO explains on its website that warm temperatures do not prevent or cure COVID-19 (here) UNICEF debunked this claim  here , pointing out that many people were also infected in countries such as Australia, Saudi Arabia and Libya, which have warmer climates.

While some argued there might not be a “second wave” of illness in countries like Sweden, for example, that introduced significantly fewer restrictions to stop the virus’ spread during the first wave, studies showed herd immunity had not been achieved. A Reuters fact check examining this in detail can be seen here .

SIMILAR TO INFLUENZA

In the video, speakers at 7:35 and 17:17 make the claim that COVID-19 is similar to the flu in terms of severity, transmission or mortality. COVID-19 is different from the influenza virus in several ways.

COVID-19 and the influenza virus present similar symptoms such as fever, fatigue, cough, aches and headaches. Unlike the influenza virus, COVID-19 can cause a loss of taste or sense of smell, and appears to be more contagious. (  here  ,  here ).

A U.S. study showed that complication rates are higher for those infected with severe COVID-19 than with severe flu (here).

The CDC explains on its website that while the COVID-19 and influenza viruses are thought to have similar transmission, COVID-19 is more contagious in certain populations.  (here)

“COVID-19 has been observed to have more superspreading events than flu,” the CDC explains. “This means the virus that causes COVID-19 can quickly and easily spread to a lot of people and result in continuous spreading among people as time progresses.” (here)

John Hopkins Medicine explains on its website that while 290,000 to 650,000 people die from the influenza virus each year worldwide (based on WHO statistics), their data shows more than 1.5 million deaths reported from COVID-19 between Jan. 2020 and Dec. 16, 2020 (here).

Other similarities between the COVID-19 virus and the influenza virus can be seen here .

Reuters Fact Check has previously debunked various flu-related coronavirus claims  here  ,  here  ,  here  and  here  .

CHILDREN DON’T SUFFER

The speaker at the 25:40 mark explains that it is “madness” to give children the vaccine when “children don’t suffer from COVID-19”.

The CDC explains on its website that while fewer children have become sick with the virus and most have mild or no symptoms, they can still become infected, sick and contagious (here). They explain some children can be severely ill with the virus and require hospitalization, intensive care or in rare cases, die.

The same speaker also claims that no child under the age of 15 has died in Sweden. The Public Health Agency of Sweden has data available on its website that shows 4 deaths in the age group 0-9 and one death in age group 10-19 (download data, under “Totalt antal per aldersgrupp” or “Total quantity for age group”, see last column here ).

COVID-19 TREATMENT CLAIMS

Speakers in the video claim that the virus can be treated or prevented with vitamins or zinc. There is no scientific evidence thus far that vitamins C, D or zinc alone can fully treat or prevent COVID-19.

The National Institute of Health (NIH) outlines its treatment guidelines here , which include therapeutic management, antiviral therapy with drugs such as remdesivir, immune-based therapy, adjunctive therapy and more.

The NIH explains on its website that the use of vitamin and mineral supplements to treat or prevent the virus is being evaluated in multiple ongoing studies (here). One ongoing study can be found here .

Studies showing these vitamins help recovery when supplemented with treatment can be seen here , here  and here . They do not, however say that these vitamins alone can prevent or cure COVID-19.

However, remdesivir is the only Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved drug for the treatment of the virus in the U.S. (here).  The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has endorsed dexamethasone and remdesivir, the United Kingdom has also approved both for use ( here   ,  here , here ).

DOCTORS AND HOSPITALS RECEIVE FINANCIAL INCENTIVES TO DIAGNOSE COVID-19

One speaker at the 11:11 mark makes the claim that doctors and hospitals receive financial incentives to diagnose COVID-19 cases. The speaker does not provide a source or evidence.

Reuters did not find any evidence to support this claim.

In May, Reuters Fact Check debunked claims about hospitals or doctors being compensated for COVID-19 cases or deaths in the U.S. here and in the U.K. here .

VACCINE CLAIMS

Many of the speakers make the claim that the COVID-19 vaccine is not safe or effective. Some base this on the extraordinary speed at which the vaccine was created, the testing, previous coronavirus vaccine efforts and side effects.

VACCINE IS NOT SAFE

Many of the speakers claim that the vaccine is not safe and that they will not be receiving the vaccine.

Britain’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) granted emergency use approval (EUA) to the vaccine developed by Pfizer and German biotechnology partner BioNTech, which they say is 95% effective in preventing illness, just 23 days after Pfizer published the first data from its final stage clinical trial (here). It was the first country to approve the vaccine.

For the United States, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the vaccine and found it to have “no specific safety concerns that would preclude issuance of an EUA” (here).

The CDC explains on its website that the COVID mRNA vaccines have gone through rigorous safety testing, like all vaccines (here).

The European Medicines Agency said in a December 15 statement that any approval for the vaccine would come with a safety monitoring plan, manufacturing controls, an investigation plan for use in children and binding obligations by the manufacturers to provide more efficacy and safety data (here).

Pfizer reported that side effects in its trial volunteers were mostly mild to moderate and cleared up quickly. The most severe side effects occurred after the second dose: fatigue in 3.8% of volunteers and headache in 2%. Older adults tended to report fewer and milder adverse events (here).

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is administered as an injection in two doses three weeks apart (here). Some of the side effects include injection site pain, tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain, fever, injection site swelling or redness, nausea, feeling unwell and swollen lymph nodes. There is a small chance the vaccine can cause an allergic reaction.

A Reuters Fact Check exploring the COVID-19 vaccine and the speed of its development can be seen here

VACCINE IS NOT EFFECTIVE

The FDA granted an emergency use authorization for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine,  which was shown to be 95% effective in preventing the disease in a late-stage trial. (here )

Moderna said the effectiveness rate for its vaccine was  94.5% and while  AstraZeneca’s trials are ongoing, the company said its vaccine could be up to 90% effective when given as a half dose followed by a full dose.  ( here  and here )

VACCINE WILL CHANGE DNA

Some of the speakers claim the vaccine will alter the recipient’s DNA or change their genetic blueprint.

The CDC explains on its website that while mRNA technology is new, it is not unknown and has been studied for more than a decade (here).

Per the CDC, the “mRNA from the vaccine never enters the nucleus of the cell and does not affect or interact with a person’s DNA.” More information about the vaccine can be found here .

Reuters Fact Check has previously debunked similar false claims that an mRNA vaccine would genetically modify humans here and here .

VACCINE WILL CAUSE INFERTILITY

Some speakers claim in the video that the COVID-19 vaccine will cause infertility. There is no evidence to support this claim.

It is possible that the claim originated from an article published on a blog titled “Health and Money News”, archive visible archive.vn/fYdAV . The article argues that the vaccine contains a spike protein, syncytin-1, which is vital for the formation of the placenta and that the vaccine trains the body to attack the protein, causing women to become infertile.

This claim has been debunked by fact checkers here , here and here .

Pfizer confirmed to The Associated Press that the vaccine has not been found to cause infertility  (here).

Reuters Fact Check has previously debunked a similar claim about the vaccine and infertility here .

SKIPPING ANIMAL TRIALS

Some speakers make the claim that animal trials were skipped during the development of the vaccine.

The FDA requires vaccine developments to begin in a laboratory and if the vaccine shows potential, it will usually be tested on animals. Once determined safe in animals and studies point to safe use on humans, clinical trials on humans with volunteers will begin (more information about this here ).

The timeline and sequence of events that need to take place for a COVID-19 vaccine to go from research to emergency use authorization can be seen here . It includes many steps and considerations, including the requirement for testing in animals.

On Sept. 9, 2020, Pfizer and BioNTech released information about the effects of its mRNA vaccine in mice and non-human primates, specifically rhesus macaques (here).

Moderna also released similar information pointing to positive results in mice and non-human primates here and here .

Due to time constraints and the urgency to find a vaccine for a virus causing a pandemic, Moderna and Pfizer received approval to run animal testing and early trials on humans at the same time, as opposed to completing animal trials before moving on to human trials ( here , here and here ).

VERDICT

False. The speakers in the video make various claims. Some can be categorized as opinion, others are false.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work  here  .         

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