A video from a Texas doctor warning against COVID-19 immunizations and touting drugs he says can treat the disease has been shared tens of thousands of times on social media. But medical experts say the physician's claims about safety and efficacy of the widely-used vaccines are false, and medications he advocates are not recommended by health authorities.
"All about mRNA So Called Vaccines," says the title of a 17-minute video published on March 15, 2021 featuring Steven Hotze, a doctor and conservative activist from Texas, who heads the Hotze Health and Wellness Center.
It has been viewed more than 60,000 times on Rumble, and a February 26, 2021 article on his center's website including the video and a transcript has been shared more than 10,000 times on Facebook, according to the social media monitoring tool CrowdTangle.
Screenshot taken from rumble.com on March 25, 2021
As of late March 2021, more than 546,000 people in the United States have died from COVID-19. Multiple Covid-19 vaccines are being administered or are in trials around the world, and inaccurate claims about the shots are spreading across the internet.
More than 133 million people have received at least one dose of the vaccine in the US. Most of the doses were Pfizer's and Moderna's mRNA vaccines, though a vaccine from Johnson & Johnson that uses different technology is also being used.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published a December 2, 2020 warning letter sent to Hotze about unapproved products that claim to offer protection against COVID-19 and promoted on his social media accounts and websites.
"We request that you take immediate action to cease the sale of such unapproved and unauthorized products for the mitigation, prevention, treatment, diagnosis, or cure of COVID-19," it said.
Below, AFP Fact Check examines some of the false or misleading claims Hotze makes in the video:
Claim 1: mRNA vaccines are not actual vaccines
Hotze claims that an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine is "not a vaccine at all. It is a synthetic messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) experimental gene therapy, and it works much differently than historic vaccines."
The mRNA shots against COVID-19 are the first to use the cutting-edge messenger ribonucleic acid technology, which differs from that of other vaccines. Instead of confronting the immune system with part of a virus in a weakened or deactivated form to build antibodies, it introduces a "blueprint" of the spike protein, part of the virus that the body can then recognize and fight if it encounters it later.
This is how mRNA vaccines work: