A viral video from Maharashtra of metal spoons and coins sticking to a vaccinated person's body is being shared and was also reported by several Marathi news outlets claiming the man exhibited a 'magnetic ability' after getting the COVID-19 vaccine dose.
The video features Arvind Sonar (71) from Nashik and shows his son is seen placing spoons, plates, and coins on his upper body, which immediately stick to his skin surface. News organisations including BBC, Navbharat Times, Live Hindustan, News 18 interviewed Sonar, nicknaming him the Magnetic Man sharing the unverified claim that COVID-19 vaccines are the reason for metal sticking to his body.
BOOM spoke to Sonar's family who said they had never claimed that vaccines were the reason and blamed the news organisations for spreading the unverified claim. Sonar's son, Jayant said that a WhatsApp forward led him to conduct the experiment on his parents and he shared the video to know why the metal items were sticking to his father's body. We also reached out to scientists, doctors who refuted the claim and called it false explaining that vaccines had nothing to do with spoons and coins sticking to Sonar's body.
In a video report published by BBC's Hindi outlet Sonar is heard saying that he tried to emulate a WhatsApp message and wants to know the reason why objects stuck to his body.
In their story, Navbharat Times stated that Sonar claimed that his body started exhibiting magnetic properties after he received the second dose and also spoke to doctors who said they were still researching the real cause of the same.
The claim is also viral on Facebook with users sharing Sonar's picture showing metal spoons and coins stuck to his body.
Social media is also filled with posts of people trying out if magnets stick to their body after being vaccinated.
BOOM spoke to Sonar's family who said they never made the video to show that the vaccine was responsible but instead made it to enquire the reason behind it. Jayant Sonar, Arvind's son emphasised that they were not trying to create vaccine hesitancy among people, and tried the experiment based on a WhatsApp forward.
"We are not saying that the vaccine is the reason for objects sticking to my father's body. We never did this before he got vaccinated. I came across a message on social media that said that after people received the second shot of Covishield, their body was attracting magnets. I asked both my father and mother to experiment," explained Jayant. He went on to add that while the spoons and coins did not stick to his mother's arm, they stuck to his father's arm. To understand what was actually happening Jayant discussed it with friends and family.
"We knew it was not really the vaccine as these objects did not stick to my mother's body. We wanted to understand what is happening as my father is diabetic so we spoke to a few people and the media heard about it. We, only said we tried it out to see as per what the message stated but have not claimed it to be due to the vaccination, " added Jayant.
Corroborating that this 'magnetic ability' is not related to the vaccine, Dr Bapusaheb Nagargoje, medical officer, Nashik Municipal Corporation, told BOOM that nobody else in the district had reported any such symptom. "Over four lakh people have been vaccinated with Covishield, the vaccine that Sonar received. We have not witnessed any other people saying they have developed magnetic properties post vaccination," Nagargoje said.
The Municipal Corporation also sent a team to assess and report what they observed at the Sonars. "We are researching the same to understand the cause of this and obviously, the results will not come overnight. One thing we can say for sure is that it is not vaccine related," said Dr. Nagargoje.
Trying To Curb Misinformation And Superstitions: Sonars
Jayant told BOOM that as soon as he saw that the news reports were linking the vaccine directly to the 'magnetic properties' his father was exhibiting, he reached out to the Narendra Dabolkhar- founded Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmaloon Samiti (MANS) to ensure that there was no widespread misinformation.
BOOM contacted Prashant Potdar, a member of MANS who visited the Sonar household to understand what was happening. "The Covishield vaccine is spread throughout the body through the blood from where it is injected into the arm. So if that vaccine has the effect of producing magnetism, then the whole body should become a magnet. We verified to ensure that they did not stick or hide any adhesives," explained Potdar
Potdar also added that at first glance, it seemed untrue that a person's hand could exhibit magnetic properties due to Covishield. He further stated that in science one event does not prove anything and needs to be further researched and verified through more reports. He even added that stainless steel is not always attracted by a magnet.
The MANS also shared with us a collage of photos to show that items made of stainless steel could stick to people's arms without vaccination. The same is being used by the organnisation to curb misinformation around the issue.
Why Do Objects Stick To The Skin?
BOOM contacted Dr. Sankaran Krishnaswamy, co-founder of Indian Scientists Response to COVID-19, and a retired professor of bioinformatics to understand the science behind why objects would stick to the skin.
"The issue is not linked to the vaccine. As children, we used to stick coins to our forehead but that is because of the surface area and stickiness of the skin. Heavier items if pressed and skin is oily could stick too. But the body does not get any magnetic properties because of it," explained Krishnaswamy.
In 2011, there were several news reports that suggested that a 7-year- old in Serbia exhibited magnetic properties. Benjamin Radford, managing editor of the magazine Skeptical Inquirer, had then said that the person could even attract glass which is not really magnetic. "These people aren't magnetic, it's just that things that have smooth surfaces stick to skin. Often these magnetic people have smooth skin and hairless chests," Radford had explained.