Facts Matter: Claim gives false info about use of vaccines to prevent viral infections

  • First- and second-graders at St. Vibiana's school are inoculated against polio with the Salk vaccine in Los Angeles. Contrary to misinformation spreading on social media, vaccines can protect against viruses that evolved naturally.

    First- and second-graders at St. Vibiana's school are inoculated against polio with the Salk vaccine in Los Angeles. Contrary to misinformation spreading on social media, vaccines can protect against viruses that evolved naturally. AP File Photo/April 1955

Updated 5/2/2020 4:59 PM

Among the misinformation about viruses circulating recently on social media is the idea that a virus that originated in nature has a remedy in nature while only viruses developed in laboratories can be prevented by vaccines.

But vaccines have been used for years to battle viruses that began in nature, according to The Associated Press.


The false claim "ignores the fact that all human viruses came from nature, and that we have made vaccines for many of them," Vincent Racaniello, a professor of microbiology and immunology at Columbia University, told The Associated Press.

Examples are measles and polio, he said.

A vaccine for yellow fever, a virus transmitted from mosquitoes to humans, has been around since the 1930s, the AP said.

Coin doesn't prove government plot

Conspiracy-minded social media users have been sharing the theory that a quarter depicting fruit bats is an indication coronavirus is a government plot.

The new coin showing the bats in a tribute to the National Park of American Samoa has no connection to the virus, <URL destination=" https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/covid-19-bat-quarters/">according to Snopes.com.

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</URL>The idea the coronavirus was transmitted to humans from bats is one of many theories about the origin of the disease. This led to "one of the more far-fetched conspiratorial takes" about the origin, claiming COVID-19 was started by the government with plans to "kill the masses and start a new world," Snopes said.

Some users posted statements claiming the timing of the coin is more than coincidence and proof the coronavirus is government made.

The quarter is part of the America the Beautiful Quarters Program, honoring national parks and sites in each state, the District of Columbia and the five U.S. territories, Snopes said. The American Samoa coin, showing a fruit bat mother and her pup hanging in a tree, was announced last year and issued in 2020.

But the design isn't about the virus, Snopes said. Transmission from bats is only one of many theories, and even if it is correct, it is unlikely the source of COVID-19 was a Samoan fruit bat, found only in the Samoan archipelago and Fiji, far from Wuhan, China, where the disease is believed to have begun.

"We also note the improbability that a government engaged in the furtive mass eradication of citizens would plan years in advance to plant subtle clues warning the public of the plot," Snopes said.


Trump didn't misstate number of governors

A meme circulating on social media claims President Donald Trump said hundreds of governors have called him but there are only 50 U.S. governors.

Actually, Trump has said there are hundreds of examples of governors praising him but he never said hundreds of governors called him, according to PolitiFact.com.

The president has referenced many of the governors during recent news conferences, offering both praise and criticism, PolitiFact said. On April 13, Trump showed a video that included New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and California Gov. Gavin Newsom complimenting the federal government's response.

"We could give you hundreds of clips just like that," Trump said. "We have hundreds of statements. Hundreds of statements, including from Democrats and Democrat governors."

This post has been flagged by Facebook as part of its effort against false news and misinformation.

Protester's sign was changed

An image showing a protester holding a sign linking former President Barack Obama to COVID-19 has not only been manipulated, but the fake information is inaccurate, according to Snopes.com.

The original photo was taken April 17 by Orange County Register photographer Jeff Gritchen, Snopes said. It shows a protester in Huntington Beach, California, holding a sign with the phrase, "Give me liberty or give me death," during a demonstration against the stay-at-home order.

When the doctored image was shared on social media, the words on the sign had been changed to, "Barack 6 (depicting the number of letters in each name), Hussein 7, Obama 5 (equals) COVID-19, Open your eyes." The three names are stacked up to look like the number of letters add up to 19. However, the numbers only add up to 18.

The meme shows a fake photo, along with bad math.

• Bob Oswald is a veteran Chicago-area journalist and former news editor of the Elgin Courier-News. Contact him at boboswald33@gmail.com.

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