Social media posts claim COVID-19 inoculations are an elaborate cover for the implantation of microchips, with videos suggesting people's arms exhibit magnetic properties afterwards. But this is a hoax. The posts are the latest incarnation of a microchip conspiracy theory pushed by individuals and groups whose amplification of falsehoods are adding to vaccine hesitancy.
"Pfizer jab and a magnet experiment! No words left to describe this," says a May 10, 2021 Instagram post.
In the video post, a woman claims her arm has a magnetic reaction after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, demonstrating this by putting a magnet on the spot where she supposedly received the shot and showing it stick to her arm. When she does the same thing to her other arm the magnet falls off.
At the end of the video the woman warns against getting the vaccine, shouting: "We're chipped."
Screenshot of an Instagram post taken May 11, 2021
Several posts with videos making the same claim have become popular on Instagram, many of them receiving thousands of views. Compilation videos of people sticking magnets to their arms have further spread the claim, along with posts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and TikTok, some in other languages.
In the United States, more than 264 million COVID-19 vaccines have been administered and just over 17 million doses have been put into arms in Canada. Although the rate of new infections is declining in many regions, misinformation about vaccines continues to spread.
Medical experts, however, say these videos are nothing more than a conspiracy theory typical of the disinformation about the novel coronavirus.
"No. Getting a COVID-19 vaccine cannot cause your arm to be magnetized. This is a hoax, plain and simple," said Dr Stephen Schrantz, an infectious diseases specialist at the University of Chicago Medicine.
"There is absolutely no way that a vaccine can lead to the reaction shown in these videos posted to Instagram and/or YouTube. It is better explained by 2 sided tape on the metal disk being applied to the skin rather than a magnetic reaction," he added.
Asked about the claim, Dr Thomas Hope, vaccine researcher and professor of cell and developmental biology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine said: "This is impossible. There's nothing there that a magnet can interact with, it's protein and lipids, salts, water and chemicals that maintain the pH. That's basically it, so this is not possible."
According to fact sheets provided by health authorities in the US and Canada, none of the available COVID-19 vaccinations (Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson or AstraZeneca) list any metal-based ingredients.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirms on its website that there are "no trackers" in the vaccines themselves.
Even if they did contain trace amounts of metallic substance, "you would have to have put a fairly substantial piece of metal underneath your skin to get the refrigerator magnets to stick," said Hope. "You could not put enough metal or iron, that is going to respond to that, in a needle and inject it into the skin."
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