How a Covid disinformation meme ‘Thanks Pfizer’ went viral

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False claims that Covid-19 vaccines cause spasms have gone viral on social media, with many users, including language education company Duolingo, making an even more viral prank from the misinformation.

Medical staff prepare a vial of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine against Covid-19. (Photo by Jens … [+] Schlueter/Getty Images)

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key facts

Anti-vaxxers are posting videos on social media of people appearing to have seizures or spasms, falsely claiming they are side effects of the covid-19 vaccine, but in many cases the videos are years old, unrelated to the vaccine against covid-19 and have been discredited by fact checkers.

A video shared by James Cintolo, who claims to be a medical expert on his Twitter bio, shows a woman having a seizure. He called the video “urgent” despite a Twitter fact-check tag noting the video is two years old. 25 million views on the platform, inspired widespread derision and a note from Twitter’s fact-checking team that it “has been discredited by multiple media outlets and local and federal health officials, showing no association… with the COVID vaccine”, according to multiple news reports. outlets, including an investigation by Wired.

Twitter users quickly turned these fake vaccine side effects into a meme: many tweets, some simply captioned “Thank you Pfizer” (the caption of a widely derided Twitter video by Angelia Desselle labeled as misinformation that has been viewed more than 23 years). million times) show a video like Steve Carrell’s character from The Office doing a weird dance, or Dua Lipa just swaying from side to side, garnering millions of views and hundreds of thousands of likes this week.

The brands also made their own jokes: Duolingo shared a video of its mascot dancing, captioned “Thank you Pfizer” (the company also shared a tweet with a link to the CDC website, urging people to stay informed about the vaccine and assuring people “twerking is not a side effect”).

key background

Videos of people appearing to convulse after receiving a dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, which are used to intentionally spread misinformation, date back at least two years, but have recently resurfaced on social media. The January 2021 video of Angelia Desselle was shared on Twitter last week by user Cintolo, who regularly posts false and misleading information about covid-19 and the vaccine. Desselle’s case was discredited by the media; A CDC spokesperson told Wired in January 2021 that it had “no adverse event data regarding a case of this nature outside of Louisiana,” where Desselle hails from. A spokesperson for the Louisiana Department of Health told Wired in January 2021 that only one adverse reaction to the vaccine had led to hospitalization at that time: The person, who experienced gastrointestinal upset and dizziness, was released and recovered. . Cintolo frequently posts these types of fake videos, falsely claiming that the vaccine is dangerous, and several of his tweets have been debunked by the media and are flagged with fact checks on Twitter. His fake tweets come at a time when anti-vaccine propaganda is surging, particularly the “sudden death” conspiracy theory, which was promoted in a documentary of the same name and prompted Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene to demand a vaccine research.

“Thanks Pfizer” Memes

Duolingo garnered nearly 300,000 likes and more than 8 million views on its “Thank you Pfizer” meme tweet, which the language-learning company posted on Monday. Other tweets participating in the viral prank include a video of Taylor Swift dancing to her video for “Delicate” and a video of comedian Nathan Fielder dancing to Shakira’s “Hips Don’t Lie,” both captioned “Thank you Pfizer.” “My friend Brenda got her shot and this started happening in the middle of a movie night thanks to Pfizer,” one user captioned a satirical tweet, along with a video of Regina Hall’s character having a seizure in Scary Movie 3. The subjects of the meme are not Not always human: Some Twitter users joked that the vaccine was to blame for making apps on their iPhone, a shopping cart or a Halloween decoration shake or twitch.

What are the real side effects of the vaccine?

The most common side effects of the vaccine, which tend to be mild and temporary, in adults include pain, redness, and swelling in the arm, as well as tiredness, headache, muscle pain, chills, fever, and nausea, according to the CDC. Side effects of the booster shot may include fever, headache, fatigue, and pain at the injection site. Adverse effects from the vaccine are rare, and the CDC emphasizes that the vaccines are safe and effective. Five cases per million doses of the vaccine have been associated with anaphylaxis and four cases per million doses of the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine have been associated with thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome. Seizures or spam are not listed as adverse effects of any covid-19 vaccine on the CDC website.

Other reading

Claims of injuries and deaths from covid vaccines revive the protest movement (Rolling Stone)

They claimed the Covid-19 vaccine made them sick. Then they went viral (Wired)

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