Experts warn against spread of vaccine misinformation on social media

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Misinformation undermines trust in vaccines

About 60 percent of the Japanese population is now fully vaccinated. But the spread of online hoaxes and conspiracy theories means many people are still reluctant to get the shot.

Yamaguchi Shinichi, associate professor at the International University of Japan, studies misinformation on social media. At an online conference in July, he said false claims about the vaccines started spreading on Twitter between April and July, the same time there was an eightfold increase in posts related to the vaccines generally.

Here are some of the more common false claims:

"Antibodies cause infertility"

According to one rumor, the antibodies created by the vaccine harm the placenta. This has been refuted by experts who say the antibodies do not attack any protein related to the placenta. Kono Taro, the minister in charge of Japan's vaccine rollout, has stressed there is no scientific evidence supporting this claim.

"Vaccination leads to higher risk of miscarriage"

Japan's health ministry says there is no data pointing to an increase in miscarriages among vaccinated women. A study by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that rates of miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth, and low birthweight are no different from those among pregnant women before the pandemic.

"mRNA alters genetic information"

Another rumor claims that the contents of the vaccines remain inside our bodies long after inoculation, altering our genetic information. Japan's health ministry has refuted this, saying the mRNA used in the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines breaks down shortly after entering the body and cannot be integrated into our DNA.

"Vaccines lead to infection"

Some social media posts claim the vaccine has infected elderly people with the virus and caused many deaths at nursing homes. Japan's health ministry points out that the vaccine does not contain the virus and therefore cannot itself cause infection. It adds there is no data indicating that the vaccine leads to a greater risk of fatality from other diseases.

The ministry says internet rumors such as this one are rooted in misinterpretations of the government's post-vaccination death total. It says none of these deaths have been determined to have been caused by the vaccines.

"Vaccines contain microchips"

One of the more colorful conspiracy theories claims the vaccines contain microchips that allow the government to control people. The CDC has denied this and says the vaccines are not administered to track people's movement.

The ingredients of the vaccines are disclosed on the websites of the manufacturers and the health authorities of various countries.

"Vaccines make you magnetic"

This myth has also been widely debunked. As the CDC notes on its website, the vaccines do not contain any magnetic substances.

This article was published on October 1, 2021.