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IST 605: Misinformation and COVID-19

An exploration of misinformation as it pertains to the spread, severity, and effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Common COVID-19 Myths and Facts

In an age where information is as viral as the virus itself, distinguishing fact from fiction is crucial in the battle against COVID-19. The pandemic was accompanied by a parallel 'infodemic' of misinformation, leading to widespread myths that hampered effective public health responses and individual safety measures. This section aims to dispel common myths and provide accurate, scientifically-backed facts about COVID-19 and the COVID-19 Vaccine.

Myths About Prevention

MYTHS regarding SARS-CoV-2 Prevention:

MYTH: Alcohol consumption acts to prevent infection.

FACT: "Far from offering protection, alcohol misuse makes the body more susceptible to viral infections and can worsen the prognosis. Alcohol in the body at the time of exposure to a pathogen tends to impair the body’s immediate immune response to the pathogen, making it easier for an infection to develop. Longer term, excessive alcohol consumption impairs immune cell functions in the lungs, making the body’s immune response less effective. Excessive alcohol use also damages the cells that line the lung surface and this damage can go undetected until an infection occurs in the lungs.  Alcohol misuse is also associated with Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). In fact, individuals who misuse alcohol chronically are more likely to develop ARDS, more likely to need mechanical ventilation, have a prolonged stay in the intensive care unit, and have a higher risk of mortality from ARDS. All of these effects of alcohol misuse could certainly complicate COVID-19 prevention, treatment, and recovery." (NIAAA, 2020).

"There’s a pervasive myth that alcohol prevents COVID-19. While hand sanitizer containing alcohol may kill the virus on surfaces, drinking alcohol doesn’t cure or prevent a COVID-19 infection." (Ferguson, 2023).

MYTH: Avoiding exposure to/use of 5G prevents infection.

FACT: "Conspiracy theories are of serious consequence to civic and public wellbeing (Uscinski, 2019). Conspiracy theory interests around anti-mask, anti-vaccination, and now 5G, are real and imminent threats to public understanding and trust of medical science and policy (Wang et al., 2019; Romer and Jamieson, 2020)...Thus, understanding conspiracy theories and theorists is critically important to the integrity of democracy and recovering the anti-scientism that has blighted many countries over the past years. 5G-COVID is an instructive case on several fronts, as an exemplary case in the importance of sound geographical reasoning, but as a demonstration of how – through absence of sound methodology – belief in the validity of data-driven propositions can thrive." (Flaherty et al., 2022).

MYTH: Masks do not effectively protect against COVID-19. Using masks can cause deadly Carbon Dioxide poisoning.

FACT: "Masks and respirators are effective at reducing transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, when worn consistently and correctly." (CDC, 2023).

MYTH: Consumption/application/injection of disinfectants prevents infection.

FACT: "There is no evidence that sunlight can cure coronavirus on the human body. Same for disinfectant and bleach. So, do not drink bleach. Do not inject disinfectant. And do not believe there is some cure for coronavirus coming from ultraviolet light." (Nierenberg, 2020).

Claims from Former US President Donald Trump fueled widely spread myths about prevention and treatment of COVID-19, as seen in the video below. Notions spoken publicly, from such a prominent position, fueled global controversy and planted seeds for the eventual distrust of medical professionals during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Myths About the COVID-19 Vaccine

MYTHS Regarding SARS-CoV-2 Vaccination:

MYTH: The vaccine makes you sick with COVID-19.

FACT: "None of these vaccines can give you COVID-19. Vaccines do not use any live virus. Vaccines cannot cause infection with the virus that causes COVID-19 or other viruses." (CDC, 2023).

MYTH: The vaccine causes infertility.

FACT: "We summarise international consensus from multiple organisations advising on fertility and the COVID-19 vaccine. Preliminary studies all suggest that there is neither link, nor indeed any theoretical reason why any of the COVID-19 vaccines might affect fertility. Dissemination of misinformation regarding the impact of the vaccine on future fertility needs to be controlled in order to avoid any hesitancy amongst young women attending for vaccination. It is also vital that the medical profession counteract this information, and, in order to do that, healthcare providers must be well informed on the latest recommendations and research." (Schaler & Wingfield, 2022).

MYTH: The vaccine contains a microchip, intended for tracking and control by the government.

FACT: "The Bill Gates conspiracy is often intertwined with conspiracies about the nature of 5G and microchip insertion via needle, despite this not being logically sound" (Evstatieva, 2020). "There is no evidence to suggest that Bill Gates and others want to insert microchips into people using the COVID-19 vaccine." (Andrews, 2021).

MYTH: The vaccine changes your DNA.

FACT: "No, the Covid-19 vaccines will not alter your DNA. Both vaccines currently used in the United States rely on messenger RNA, or mRNA. These vaccines teach your cells to create proteins that trigger an immune response. Within a matter of days, our cells then destroy the mRNA once they've created a protein. mRNA cannot combine with or change your DNA. It never enters the nucleus of a cell, which is where your DNA sits." (, 2021).