The Week in Fake News: This Stuff Didn’t Happen, But It Went Viral on Social Media
A roundup of some of the most popular but completely fake stories and visuals of the week. None of these are legit, even though they have been widely shared on social media. The Associated Press verified them. Here are the facts:
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Study did not show COVID-19 vaccines harm immunity
To claim: A new study by Moderna and National Institutes of Health researchers shows that COVID-19 mRNA vaccines “impair long-term immunity against Covid after infection.”
Facts: A lead author of the study and several experts who reviewed the paper for the AP say its findings are misinterpreted and that Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine offers protection against the disease.
The April article is a preprint, which means it has not yet been peer-reviewed and published by a journal. It focuses on how certain antibody tests work to identify people who have had a recent COVID-19 infection despite being vaccinated, in this case with Moderna’s vaccine.
COVID-19 vaccines work by inducing antibodies that recognize a specific part of the coronavirus, the spike protein. But the virus contains several proteins, and detection of antibodies against one called the nucleocapsid or “N” protein can indicate that a person has been infected, whether or not they have been vaccinated. The paper used stored data from Moderna’s large-scale COVID-19 vaccine trial and found that fewer vaccinated people who had breakthrough infections had detectable ‘N antibodies’ compared to unvaccinated people who have been infected.
But experts say it makes no difference to people’s long-term immunity to COVID-19, contrary to claims online.
“URGENT: The strongest evidence yet that mRNA vaccines harm long-term immunity to Covid after infection,” reads the title of the Substack post by Alex Berenson, a freelance journalist who has criticized the COVID-19 vaccines. He cited the “explosive study.”
One author of the article said the suggestion that the article showed vaccines to be anything but protective was a misinterpretation.
“There is nothing in this article to suggest that vaccines don’t work,” said Dr. Lindsey Baden, the study’s lead author and an infectious disease researcher at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. . He added: “What the data shows is that people who are vaccinated are less infected and have a milder infection, and so the fingerprints of the infection are smaller because you have less infection.”
Other experts agreed. “It’s a good thing you have a reduction in anti-N antibodies because it shows the vaccines are doing their job,” said John Moore, professor of microbiology and immunology at Weill Cornell Medicine.
Experts also said it was unclear whether antibodies to the nucleocapsid offer protection against COVID-19, as Berenson suggests. Dr. Daniel Hoft, a professor at Saint Louis University School of Medicine who specializes in infectious diseases and vaccine research, said in an email that it has not been demonstrated that at this time anti-nucleocapsid-specific antibodies provide protection against SARS-CoV-2 infection and/or disease.
In a response to the AP, Berenson cited a study he says shows the importance of such antibodies. Sarah Caddy, author of the study cited by Berenson and a clinical research fellow at the University of Cambridge, noted in an email that the research was carried out on a mouse and used a different virus, not SARS-CoV. -2. Caddy said that while she believes N antibodies are important, “we have no idea how important they are compared to peak antibodies. Probably not that much, if the success of vaccines is to be believed. on point.”
Rama Rao Amara, professor of microbiology and immunology and associate director of vaccine development at the Emory Vaccine Center, said he and his colleagues tested a modified COVID-19 vaccine in monkeys that induced antibodies against the nucleocapsid, in more peak protein. “We saw no evidence that antibodies to the nucleocapsid played a role in protection,” Amara said.
Baden, the preprint’s lead author, said arguments suggesting that simply having more types of antibodies is inherently better aren’t rooted in the data – especially when antibody protection of vaccines against spike protein has been shown to be effective in reducing disease and death. While Berenson’s post suggests the preprint was “quietly released,” Baden said the article is currently being reviewed for publication in an academic journal.
– Associated Press writer Angelo Fichera in Philadelphia contributed to this report.
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The identity of the relatives of the victim of Uvalde fuels the conspiracies
To claim: Two different men have been identified in TV interviews as the father of one of the children killed in the shooting at a school in Uvalde, Texas, proof that the shooting was a “hoax”.
Facts: While some reports have identified both Angel Garza and Alfred Garza III as Amerie Jo Garza’s father, Angel Garza is her stepfather while Alfred Garza III is her father.
A video circulating online is being used to cast doubt on the May 24 school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, in which a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers. The video shows a clip from CNN identifying Angel Garza as the father of 10-year-old Amerie Jo Garza. The video then turns to an interview that NBC News conducted with Alfred Garza III. Amerie is identified as Alfred’s daughter.
“THINK WHILE IT’S LEGAL,” wrote an Instagram user who shared the video on Saturday. The user included hashtags such as “#Hoax”, “#Fake” and “#CGi” alongside the video, which has been viewed over 13,000 times.
The video also circulated on several other social media platforms, prompting some to suggest the shooting was staged. But the explanation is much simpler. As the AP reported last week, Angel Garza is Amerie Jo Garza’s stepfather. Carlos Mendoza, Amerie’s uncle, again confirmed their relationship with the AP on Tuesday.
An obituary posted online by Hillcrest Memorial Funeral Home, which is in Uvalde, also names Angel Garza as her stepfather, while Alfred Garza III is listed as her father.
Hundreds of mourners turned out for afternoon mass on Tuesday to remember Amerie Jo Garza, the AP reported. Funeral services for the victims will continue for the next two and a half weeks.
– Associated Press writers Angelo Fichera and Josh Kelety in Phoenix contributed to this report.
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Video edited to edit Pfizer CEO’s comments on low-cost drug program
To claim: Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said the company’s dream is to “reduce the population by 50%” by 2023.
Facts: The video, recorded on May 25, is edited to cut out Bourla’s statement mid-sentence, twisting the meaning. A full video of the statement shows him saying the goal is to “reduce by 50% the number of people in the world who cannot afford our medicines.”
Days after Bourla spoke at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on May 25, social media users shared the edited video of his remarks. At the event, Bourla announced a new program to provide all of Pfizer’s patented vaccines and medicines — already available in the United States and the European Union — at low cost to 45 of the world’s poorest countries.
In a video of the remarks that the World Economic Forum posted on YouTube, Bourla clearly mentions drugs. “I think it’s really the fulfillment of a dream we had with my management team when we started in 2019. Week one we met in January 2019 in California to set the goals for the next five years – and one of them was by 2023 we will reduce by 50% the number of people in the world who cannot afford our medicines. I think today that dream becomes reality,” he told the conference.
But in the clip circulating on social media, the second sentence was misleadingly edited to sound like Bourla was talking about reducing the world’s population: “Week one, we met in January 2019 in California to define the goals for the next five years – and one of them was by 2023 we will reduce the number of people in the world by 50%,” it appears to say in the edited video.
The program includes 23 drugs and vaccines that treat infectious diseases, certain cancers, and rare and inflammatory diseases. The company says it will charge only “minimal” manufacturing costs and distribution expenses, the AP reported.
While most of the program countries are in Africa, Haiti, Syria, Cambodia and North Korea are also on the list. Keanna Ghazvini, a spokesperson for Pfizer, confirmed in an email that the video circulating on social media had been edited.
— Associated Press writer Arijeta Lajka in New York contributed to this report.
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Costco gas pump screen image changed
To claim: A digital screen at a Costco gas pump reads, “Don’t blame us. Blame Joe Biden.
Facts: The image has been manipulated to add the message.
As gasoline prices skyrocket across the United States, some frustrated Americans are sharing an altered image that mistakenly suggests warehouse chain Costco is publicly blaming President Joe Biden for fuel costs.
The image shows a digital display at a Costco gas pump with a total price of nearly $150 for just over 26 gallons of gas. Text on a second screen below the price reads: “Don’t blame us. Blame Joe Biden. In the lower left corner of the screen, two options are available for selection: “Yes” and “Yes”. However, this image has been modified. The two “Yes” options at the bottom of the screen and a floating, displaced “Yes” near the top of the screen—each almost identical—indicate that someone has tampered with the onscreen options, according to Hany Farid. digital forensics expert and professor at the School of Information at the University of California, Berkeley.
An analysis of the lines and angles of the image also indicates that the on-screen text does not belong there, Farid told the AP in an email. “The vanishing point corresponding to the parallel lines on the screen, the price and the text ‘Don’t Blame…’ are inconsistent,” Farid wrote. “This is a common mistake made when manipulating text on a sign, because the human visual system isn’t particularly good at reasoning about this kind of perspective geometry.”
Costco posted a statement on Facebook on Tuesday that appeared to reference the fake image. “There have been multiple reports of scams and manipulated images related to Costco gas stations on various social media platforms,” the statement read. “These are in no way affiliated with or endorsed by Costco. Thank you to our members for bringing them to our attention. Costco did not respond to a request for additional comment.
– Associated Press writer Ali Swenson in New York contributed to this report.
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