Fact check: The COVID-19 vaccine is not a placebo

A social media post with a list of claims linked to a purported “game plan” behind the COVID-19 pandemic has been viewed thousands of time online. The list includes the false suggestion that the vaccines that have been developed to combat the disease are actually ‘placebos’.

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS

An image containing the list is entitled “The WEF technocratic game plan’, with WEF referring to the World Economic Forum. At the end of the list it says: “Enjoy the complete control of a ‘sustainable’ ordered humanity. Agenda 2030 complete” - suggesting the pandemic is part of a plan to fundamentally change society (here).

Facebook users shared the post with captions such as ‘Don’t let this continue’ and ‘For those who believe that returning to normality is on the horizon. Nowhere near. Covid is just part of an agenda’.

Other claims that the pandemic is part of a global conspiracy have been debunked by Reuters here , here , here , here and here .

This article will address the post’s primary claims, but the others are beyond the scope of this check.

“Release a lab-produced virus that’s slightly more deadly than flu”

The post suggests this stage in the ‘game plan’ has already occurred. Though there is no credible supporting evidence, some researchers still do not rule out the possibility that the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 - known as SARS-CoV-2 - was released accidentally by a specialist lab at the Wuhan Institute of Virology (here).

However, most virologists and infectious disease experts say the new virus is most likely to have evolved naturally. Its closest relative in nature is the RaTG13 virus, which was discovered in horseshoe bats in southwest China’s Yunnan province. The 96.2% genetic match between the two makes it likely that COVID-19 also originated in the bat colonies of China’s southwest border regions (here).

Reuters reported in December 2020 that researchers had found COVID-19 was three times more deadly than seasonal flu (here).

“Roll out first placebo vaccine”

The image states that ‘we are currently’ at the stage were the ‘first placebo vaccine’ has been rolled out.

Vaccines against coronavirus are not placebos. The Oxford-AstraZeneca and Pfizer BioNTech vaccines, which are available in the UK, went through clinical trials (here) to prove their safety and efficacy. During the trials, half of the volunteers were given the vaccine and half were given a placebo dummy treatment (here). Pfizer’s clinical trials of over 40,000 people reported that the vaccine can prevent 95% of COVID-19 cases and AstraZeneca’s trials of over 23,000 people showed the vaccine to be 70.4% effective (here).

Both of the vaccines use a new technology where the genetic code of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein is delivered to the body’s cells. Once inside the body, the spike protein is produced, causing the immune system to recognise it and initiate an immune response. (here).

The ingredients are explained by Oxford University’s Vaccine Knowledge Project here .

“Use low PCR amplifications to prove that the vaccine worked”

The post claims that ‘low PCR amplifications’ are the next step of the World Economic Forum’s agenda. It refers to the most common form of COVID-19 test, a molecular test, which uses nasal or throat swabs to look for evidence of genetic material from the virus. The most accurate molecular test is a polymerase chain reaction test- shortened to PCR (here).

The PCR test detects the virus by amplifying a small part of the virus’ genetic material through amplification cycles. “The Cycle Threshold, or CT value, is the number of PCR cycles that it takes before the virus is first detected; the lower the CT value the higher the level of virus in the original sample,” the Scottish government says in a recent release addressing questions about PCR testing (here).

The allegation around PCR amplification manipulation is likely to be linked to a notice from the World Health Organization clarifying advice for laboratory professionals interpreting PCR test results (here). It reminded readers that “careful interpretation of weak positive results is needed”.

The statement led to a flurry of posts alleging that the WHO ‘admitted’ the PCR tests generate many false-positives and had subsequently lowered the threshold of amplification cycles needed for a positive test. As fact-checkers at Health Feedback explained, this was inaccurate (here).

They pointed to a blog post by Ian Mackay, a virologist and associate professor at the University of Queensland (here). Mackay wrote that WHO’s information notice was simply a reminder to laboratory staff to “read the instructions and understand the purpose of testing”. He lamented that “this lab-focused advice has been taken by those with malicious intent, or with too little understanding of the topic, and blown up into something else entirely wrong.” (here)


False. The coronavirus vaccines are not placebos, there is no evidence authorities have changed PCR testing in order to generate false efficacy of vaccines, and there is no credible evidence at the time of publication that COVID-19 was deliberately released from a lab.

Most importantly, there is no evidence that the pandemic is a conspiracy organised by the World Economic Forum. So far, more than 100,000 people have died of COVID-19 in the UK alone (here) .