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Fact check: can covid-19 vaccines make you magnetic?

No, your vaccine will not give make you magnetic, yet millions in the US have seen videos circulating on social media that claim to prove just that.

Fact check: can covid-19 vaccines make you magnetic?
ADRIAN DENNIS AFP

Viral videos of those vaccinated sticking metal items to their body have gone viral on several social media platforms, claiming that it is definitive proof that the vaccine makes you magnetic.

Conspiracy theories have fostered a culture of vaccine hesitancy across the United States. From fears over microchips to danger over the ingredients used causing infertility, these theories have created challenges for the United States to meet President Biden’s goal of vaccinating at least seventy percent of adults by the Fourth of July. Over the past year, this distrust is further fueled by the vast digest of misinformation many in the US have been fed by former president Trump and conspiracy theorists on social media. From blatant denial of the virus to “quick fix” therapeutics, researchers have shown that belief in these false claims correlates with an increased aversion to getting a covid-19 vaccine.

The latest theory states that individuals will be able to attract magnetic objects at the vaccination site. The theory stems from the idea that a small magnetic microchip is implemented when the vaccine solution is administered. This claim is categorically false and dangerous. Many public health experts believe that misinformation and false theories will make it challenging for the US to reach herd immunity in the near future. Luckily, with only around sixty-three percent of adults partially vaccinated, new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths associated with covid-19 have declined significantly. However, the threat is still present for those who choose to forgo vaccination or are unable to receive a dose due to their age or medical history. On 10 June, over 13,000 new cases were confirmed, over 20,000 people remained hospitalized, and 387 died as a result of their infection.

Covid-19 vaccine conspiracy theories and social media

Social media has proven to be a powerful tool in spreading misinformation on covid-19 vaccines and the virus more broadly. In recent days, videos on TikTok and Instagram showing people sticking magnetic items at the injection point have been seen by millions. This extremely harmful theory was spread further after Ohio Republican lawmakers invited a doctor who is a known conspiracy theorist to share testimony in support of House Bill 248. The bill, which is currently being debated, includes various measures, including one that would prohibit employers from requiring vaccination as a term of employment. In her forty-five-minute testimony, Dr. Tenpenny was quoted saying, “You can put a key on their forehead, it sticks. You can put spoons and forks all over, and they can stick because now we think there is a metal piece to that.”

During the question and answer period of the hearing, one state lawmaker Dr. Beth Liston, who holds a Ph.D. in public health, stated that the bill would “lead to outbreaks of disease.” Rep Liston continued by scolding her Republican by saying that the only benefit of Tenpenny’s testimony was that it “exposes who exactly supports HB248: individuals with absurd, uninformed and dangerous beliefs.”

Which demographic groups are the most hesitant in getting a covid-19 vaccine?

A new global poll by Morning Consult found that aside from Russia, the United States has the highest percent of vaccine-hesitant residents. The poll will continue to be updated as more data is collected and surveyed people from 15 countries, including Canada, China, France, South Korea, and Spain. Globally, the most common reason why individuals were unwilling to get a shot related concerns over side effects and distrust over how quickly the vaccines were developed and approved.

A look at hesitancy in the US

In the United States, a few social groups are more were found to be more unwilling to get poked.  Hesitancy can stem from various sources, and not all have to do with conspiracies on social media.

Vaccine Hesitancy for Various Demographic Groups

Black Women

18-34-Year-Olds 

55%

Republicans without a college degree

54%

Black adults without a college degree 

Republican women 

Black adults with low income 

53%

Rural dwellers with low income

51%

35-44-year-olds with low incomes

50%

Moms

49%

Data: Morning Consult

For example, Black women were found to have the highest rate of hesitancy. Many public health experts believe that this originates from fears over the historical use of Black people and other minorities as test subjects in brutal scientific studies like the Tuskegee Syphilis Study. Dr. Sherita Golden, who serves as the Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer at Johns Hopkins Medicine, believes that vaccine hesitancy among Black Americans, and other people of color, will not be fixed quickly after enduring “centuries of having their trust violated.” Dr.Golden worries about high resistance to vaccination among this group as minorities, especially Black people, have suffered and died at disproportionate levels from covid-19.

Morning Consult was also able to identify that the news digest of individuals impacted their willingness to get vaccinated. Through polling, the organization found that Fox News viewers were more unlikely than others who prefer other broadcast networks to get vaccinated. This finding tracks with the fact that Republicans are more vaccine-hesitant compared to their Democratic counterparts.

 As demand for vaccines slows across the US, the White House is working in partnership with local community officials to build trust.