I recently came across this video on YouTube. It was put up on December 17 and claims to provide an explanation of COVID-19 vaccine efficacy and risks. The contents of this video are extremely inaccurate and misleading. I am alarmed that it has attracted more than 300,000 views with several commenters expressing agreement with the pseudoscience in this video.
The presenter in the video makes a number of claims, which I will factcheck:
1. He claims that the SARS-CoV-2's 'spike' protein can directly cause lung fibrosis (permanent tissue stiffening) by engaging with something called EGFR on human cells. According to him, this is how COVID-19 causes pneumonia.
FACTCHECK: This is not correct. The majority of COVID-19 patients do not develop permanent lung fibrosis. The small number that do develop it as a consequence of severe lung damage. Lung fibrosis is a potential consequence of any kind of severe pneumonia, not just COVID-19. Fibrosis is a form of scarring that is not controlled by the virus spike but by the body's reparative processes. Specifically, there is NO evidence that the spike acts as a 'methyltransferase'. The 'NSP16' that he references is an entirely different genomic product with a different function.
2. He states that pharmaceutical companies 'don't dare' make live attenuated vaccines as they can still cause disease.
FACTCHECK: False. Several companies and universities are investigating live weakened SARS-CoV-2 vaccines. The reason they are not available yet is simply because the process of 'weakening' the virus and verifying this weakening effect takes a lot of time, so they can't be rolled out quickly. I am confident we will see live attenuated vaccines trialled within the next couple of years.
3. Extraordinarily, he claims that mRNA vaccines do NOT protect against COVID-19 because they stimulate production of a type of antibody called IgG. He makes the bizarre claim that IgG cannot protect against COVID-19 because it is in the blood and not the lung.
FACTCHECK: Completely factually wrong. By the time this video was put on YouTube, trial results of both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines had been released proving beyond a shadow of doubt that they provided > 90% protection against COVID-19. This means that a person who received the vaccine is > 90% LESS likely to fall ill from COVID-19 compared to a person who hasn't received the vaccine. IgG CAN protect against COVID-19 because it is also found in our alveolar epithelial fluid deep in the lungs where we need protection against COVID-19. He is partially correct that IgA-generating inhalation vaccines are an attractive option and several institutions (including HKU) are actively pursuing this, but there is NO doubt whatsoever that that the currently licensed vaccines are effective against COVID-19. He is either unaware of or deliberately ignoring the phase III RCT results on the mRNA vaccines.
4. MOST dangerously, he then makes another claim that mRNA vaccines can trigger multi-organ fibrosis because the mRNA gets into the kidney and liver.
FACTCHECK: Absolutely no theoretical or factual basis for this. The mRNA vaccines actually degrade relatively quickly after expressing a small amount of spike in our body at the site of injection. This spike produced is sufficient to trigger a robust immune response and that's it. Neither the mRNA or the spike accumulate in the organs that he mentioned. Also, I have debunked his hypothesis of spike protein directly causing fibrosis in point 1.
5. Lastly, he introduces a lot of nutritional supplements as potentially useful against COVID-19
FACTCHECK: Zero evidence. The 'docking' that he mentions is an iffy computer-based simulation method to see if certain molecules can interact with SARS-CoV-2 proteins. Unless there is robust pre-trial and clinical trial evidence to back it up, most of these docking 'discoveries' never end up anywhere.
This is the MOST dangerous/ toxic kind of vaccine disinformation in which a person who appears to have some scientific training makes outrageous claims with a lot of pseudoscience on a white board. It is difficult for viewers not familiar with the topic to differentiate between the facts and fabrications. It is important for each of us to fight this kind of disinformation that makes its way into family Whatsapp groups and Facebook timelines.
Insist on verifying the facts and have a great weekend!
This article is first published on the author’s Facebook.