The post of news piece quoting the name of French virologist and Nobel laureate Luc Montagnier saying “All Vaccinated people will die in 2 years” went viral on all the social media platforms with WhatsApp groups forward multiple times creating havoc across the world. Almost half of the people in the world have already been vaccinated and hence the news was obvious.
The social media forwards found their source in an online news site called LifeSiteNews which is a Canadian far-right anti-abortion advocacy and newsgroup. The article further said that many leading epidemiologists and virologists are aware of the issue but are still keeping silent.
The report was a misrepresentation of an article published on the website of RAIR Foundation, an American NGO. The article included a 2-minute video of the Nobel laureate denigrating the vaccination drive as a step to counter the COVID-19 Pandemic.
The result was that several anti-vaccine groups in the world overcapitalized on the video to push forward their message and reinforced all existing dubious claims surrounding the vaccine. This news has now been affirmed to be FAKE news.
Although Luc Montaigner is opposed to the vaccination drives, he did not in any part of the interview, outrightly claim or even hint at the certainty of death due to vaccination. This was a clear case of detrimental misinterpretation and misrepresentation of news.
Several governmental and non-governmental authorities came in support of vaccination drives and condemned the fake news. The virologist claimed that the vaccination cycles are being followed by increased cases of people becoming infected with stronger mutated variants of the virus.
The claims of Luc Montagner are based on the fact that some mutations of the virus tend to escape the immune system or the antibodies in the human body. Scientists and international health organizations however have repeatedly pointed out that mutations are a very common phenomenon in the case of viruses, and are not caused by vaccination.
According to experts, mutations take place when a virus replicates itself in the human body and this leads to new variants. Although some may escape these antibodies, the more the viruses transmit, the more it mutates. This is where vaccines play a role in limiting this transmission and preventing the emergence of new mutants and variants, say experts.
In a situation where citizens were only beginning to overcome their reservations about the vaccine, such news came as a big step backward. To counter the same, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has said that COVID-19 vaccines in India are safe and has urged all citizens to get vaccinated. The government has said that the vaccines have been introduced in the country only after the regulatory bodies clear it based on its safety and efficacy.
The official Twitter handle of the Press Information Bureau’s fact check account has also clarified that this message is fake. “An image allegedly quoting a French Nobel Laureate on #COVID19 vaccine is circulating on social media. The claim in the image is #FAKE. #COVID19 Vaccine is completely safe. Do not forward this image,” PIB tweeted.
Moreover, a well-known fact-checking resource “snopes.com” had previously called out the chief perpetrator here- LifeSite News, as “a known purveyor of misleading information.” With several new types of research and developments in the areas releasing their findings every day, as well as the prevailing vested interests of various stakeholders, lobbies, and even media, it is more important now than ever before to fact-check every forward and news that we come across.
The crux of the issue is that the news doing the rounds about death from vaccination is fake. Vaccination is key in the fight against Covid-19, and so is taking precautionary measures of wearing masks, avoiding crowded areas, and effective sanitization of hands and surfaces. With that, let us also be wary of fake news, and resolve to be responsible and analytical citizens, rather than passive consumers of media.