A look at what didn't happen this week
The Associated Press presents its roundup of some of the most popular but completely untrue stories. None of these are legit, even though they were shared widely on social media. Here are the facts:
Despite false claims, Los Angeles mayor who tested positive for COVID had not received booster shot
CLAIM: Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has received three COVID-19 vaccine doses but still tested positive for the virus.
THE FACTS: The day after Garcetti tested positive for COVID-19 while attending a U.N. climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, social media users began falsely claiming he had not only received two COVID-19 vaccine doses, but also a third booster dose. Social media posts on Thursday used the false claim as a premise for skepticism about vaccine effectiveness. “BREAKING - Triple vaxxed Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti tests positive for COVID,” read one post circulating widely on Instagram. “Remember, trust the science.” Another post on Facebook read: "LA Mayor Eric Garcetti tested positive for COVID and he’s *TRIPLE VAXXED.*' However, Garcetti has not gotten a booster shot for COVID-19, Alex Comisar, his communications director, said Thursday.
Garcetti “received two doses of the Moderna vaccine earlier this year and will be getting his booster as soon as it’s recommended he do so,” Comisar said. If you got Pfizer or Moderna shots first, U.S. health authorities say you’re eligible for a booster if your last dose was at least six months ago and you’re 65 or older. Younger adults with health problems, or with jobs or living conditions that put them at higher risk of COVID-19, are also eligible.
Anyone who got the Johnson & Johnson shot first is eligible for a booster, as long as they got the vaccine at least two months ago. People who are fully vaccinated are still strongly protected against hospitalization and death from COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the agency says public health officials have observed waning protection over time against mild and moderate disease, especially in certain populations.
Booster shots can increase protection for people who were vaccinated months ago.
— Associated Press writer Ali Swenson in New York contributed this report.
No, COVID-19 vaccines don’t cause HIV, AIDS or cancer
CLAIM: Receiving the COVID-19 vaccine shot makes you more likely to get AIDS or cancer.
THE FACTS: The claim is false. On Oct. 25, Facebook and Instagram removed a live video published by Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro. In the video Bolsonaro falsely claimed that people in the U.K. who had received two coronavirus vaccine doses were developing AIDS faster than expected. Days later, social media posts repeated the false information. One popular Facebook post falsely claimed, “Y’all The shot is giving ppl cancer & HIV.”
But immunologists, infectious disease specialists and cancer researchers contacted by The Associated Press said COVID-19 vaccines don’t cause cancer or make individuals more likely to contract HIV, which is the virus that causes AIDS. Dr. Michael Imperiale, professor in the department of microbiology and immunology at the University of Michigan, said “there is no evidence linking the vaccines to cancer,” and that none of the ingredients in the vaccines are cancer-causing. Dr. Mark Shlomchik, chair of the department of immunology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, said the idea that any vaccine can cause cancer is inaccurate. “There is no practical way that a vaccine could cause cancer,” Shlomchik said. “No vaccine that we have ever studied or used to prevent infection has ever been associated with cancer.”
The claim that COVID-19 vaccines cause HIV or AIDS is “absolutely and categorically a false statement,” said Dr. Monica Gandhi, associate chief of the division of HIV, infectious diseases and global medicine at the University of California San Francisco Medical School. “There is nothing in the COVID vaccines that contain either HIV or increase a body’s susceptibility to contracting HIV.” Individuals also can’t contract HIV while receiving the shot. “It is not possible to transmit HIV between people during immunization,” said Dr. Paul Bollyky, associate professor of medicine in the division of infectious diseases at Stanford University department of medicine. “The COVID-19 vaccines are not made using any human blood products and a single-use needle is used in each different person who received the vaccine.”
AIDS is the most severe phase of HIV infection, associated with a high viral load and a badly damaged immune system. But in clinical trials testing the safety and efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines, no evidence emerged suggesting people living with HIV were more likely to develop AIDS after receiving the shot. “Many hundreds of thousands of people have participated in worldwide trials for the vaccines,” said Shlomchik. “‘Adverse events’ were studied in both vaccinated participants and non-vaccinated people who were part of the study. There was never any difference between the two groups in getting AIDS.”
Real world data also doesn’t show vaccinated people getting AIDS more often than unvaccinated people. “7 billion doses of COVID vaccines have been given out,” said Gandhi. “And there has been no evidence that vaccines make it more likely for individuals to get AIDS.”
— Associated Press writer Terrence Fraser in New York contributed this report.
Posts use old photo to criticize jets flown to climate conference
CLAIM: Photo shows “the 400 jets used by #COP26Glasgow attendees to get to a conference on reducing emissions and fossil fuels.”
THE FACTS: The image of parked jets was taken in New Orleans during the 2013 Super Bowl, not at the U.N. climate summit in Scotland known as COP26. Some who are critical of the fact that some attendees flew to the climate conference in private jets erroneously used the old photo from 2013 to make their point. “These are the 400 jets used by #COP26Glasgow attendees to get to a conference on reducing emissions and fossil fuels,” conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza wrote in a tweet that garnered some 9,000 retweets and 23,000 likes. “Clearly there will be fierce competition here for the Hypocrisy Awards.”
Reverse image searches show the photo used in the tweet has been online for several years. The image appeared in a 2013 story by Aviation International News, which identified the image as showing hundreds of business jets at the New Orleans Lakefront Airport for the Super Bowl that year. David Spielman, the New Orleans-based photographer credited with the image, confirmed in a phone interview that he took the photo for that outlet.
D’Souza later corrected himself on Facebook, where he had also shared the claim. “Correction: the photo posted below was the wrong photo,” he said. “The photo below was taken in 2013.” D’Souza did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
COP26 bills itself as being a “carbon-neutral conference” and says that “unavoidable carbon emissions from COP26” will be offset — such as by investing in projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Associated Press asked the communications team for the conference how many private jets had transported attendees and whether they were accounted for in the carbon offsets plan, but did not receive a response before publication.
Other efforts to verify the number of private jets used were also unsuccessful.
— Associated Press writer Angelo Fichera in Philadelphia contributed this report.
Ads raising awareness about strokes in kids are not related to vaccines
CLAIM: A bus advertisement on knowing the warning signs of strokes in children is related to COVID-19 vaccines.
THE FACTS: In the days after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration cleared a smaller dose of the Pfizer vaccine to be used by children ages 5 to 11, social media users shared a photo of a bus advertisement from Canada to spread false information about COVID-19 vaccines and children. Posts that circulated online included a photo of the advertisement, which read, “Kids have strokes too, know the signs,” along with a caption that falsely suggested that the government was somehow forecasting a wave of strokes among children once they become vaccinated against COVID-19.
However, the advertisement, which was featured on nine buses in Ontario, has no link to the vaccines. A Canadian charitable foundation, Achieving Beyond Brain Injury, placed the ads to educate the public about strokes among children during Pediatric Stroke Awareness month in May. The foundation’s co-founders, Nadine Vermeulen and Rebecca DiManno, started the organization after their sons suffered strokes at 10 and 14 years old. Vermeulen said the bus ads had nothing to do with the COVID-19 vaccines. “It was heartbreaking that what we are trying to do and spread awareness has been turned into something that we feel we have to defend ourselves against,” she said about the claims on social media.
Vermeulen said her organization had not said that strokes are common, they only wanted to make parents aware. “Neither of us knew that kids could have strokes until our kids did,” Vermeulen told The Associated Press. “There are different signs you can look for that can help save a child’s life.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not list stroke as a side effect of the COVID-19 vaccines. Millions of children ages 12 to 17 have received the Pfizer vaccine and there have been no significant reports of strokes. “None of the mRNA vaccines that are under investigation for children are associated with that,” Dr. Kevin J. Downes, assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, said of strokes.
This week, American children aged 5 to 11 began receiving Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine for kids. Prior to that, the FDA reviewed data from 3,100 children in that age group who had received the vaccine during trials and found that some experienced mild to moderate side effects, including sore arms, fatigue and fever. In rare cases, some teens and young adults who have received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines have reported a side effect of heart inflammation also known as myocarditis.
— Associated Press writer Beatrice Dupuy in New York contributed this report.
Soccer match video edited to add anti-Biden chant
CLAIM: Video shows crowd chanting “F--- Joe Biden” during soccer game.
THE FACTS: A video clip of a 2016 soccer game that circulated on TikTok was altered to add audio from a country music concert where the audience chanted a profanity in reference to President Joe Biden. On TikTok, users can take the sound from one clip and play it over the visuals from another. Audio from an Aaron Lewis concert replaced the original sound of the soccer match. In the concert clip, the country singer, the former frontman of the metal band Staind, led his audience in the anti-Biden chant. A YouTube video shows Lewis leading a chant that sounds the same at a Sept. 25 concert in Scranton, Pennsylvania. The footage in the soccer clip shows MetLife stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, packed with fans watching Chile and Argentina compete in the Copa America final on June 26, 2016. At the time, Barack Obama was president.
— Associated Press writer Arijeta Lajka in New York contributed this report.