Anti-vax claims center on the laws of attraction

By microstock3D/ Shutterstock

Factually is a newsletter about fact-checking and misinformation from Poynter’s International Fact-Checking Network. Sign up here to receive it on your email every Thursday.

3,190 fact checks were added to the CoronavirusFacts Alliance database in the first half of 2021, with fact checks about vaccines dominating the list. The alliance database combines the work of more than 90 fact-checking organizations from more than 70 countries contributing fact checks in more than 40 languages.

In the past month, magnetism has taken center stage when it comes to vaccine falsehoods, with some falsehoods going so far as to claim that vaccinated people are detectable by Bluetooth. PolitiFact and Ukrainian fact-checking outlet VoxCheck debunked this falsehood in May with Myth Detector in Georgia and Teyit in Turkey batting it down in June.

June also saw a continuation of people with advanced degrees using/abusing the societal respect conferred upon their academic achievement to make unfounded claims about COVID-19. Agence France Presse knocked down a claim by one of the “disinformation dozen” about vaccine shedding, which is the false notion that vaccinated people can shed vaccines and vaccinate the unvaccinated (that’s not how vaccines work).

There were also a handful of false claims that used the specter of a prominent anti-vaxxer to gain traction. Aos Fatos and Agência Lupa in Brazil, in Spain, Colombiacheck in Colombia and Animal Politico in Mexico all discovered that Luc Montagnier — a French Nobel laureate who’s made several false claims about COVID-19 — hadn’t claimed that vaccinated people would die in two years. The quote had been fabricated from an interview where Montagnier made a separate false claim that vaccines were creating new COVID-19 variants. That claim is not supported by science.

As travel picks up in the United States and Europe, several fact checks knocked down a falsehood that airlines were considering banning vaccinated passengers. The claims cited rare instances of blood clots on long haul flights and trumped up fears of rare blood clots associated with some of the vaccines to justify the ban. However, fact-checkers in Spain, Poland, Brazil and the United States all found that airlines are encouraging passengers to get vaccinated, not banning them.

Interesting fact-checks

AP Photo/Marco Ugarte, File

  • Animal Politico: “Marijuana: What the Court decided and what consumers can do now” (in Spanish)
    • Mexico’s Supreme Judicial Court struck down that country’s criminalization of marijuana, but confusion remains about what the decision actually means. Animal Politico used this explainer to lay out what’s now legal, what’s not, and what are the possible next steps.
  • “The Facts – and Gaps – on the Origin of the Coronavirus” (in English)
    • The origins of the COVID-19 pandemic have long been a political football. To clear up the debate, gave a rundown of all the possible theories, as well as the evidence supporting or detracting from them.

Quick hits

File Photo by: zz/STRF/STAR MAX/IPx / AP Photo

From the news: 

  • “‘Pierogies do not stop COVID’: Pittsburgh pediatrician battles virus misinformation on TikTok,” from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Dr. Todd Wolynn said social media is a “necessary tool” for doctors to spread verified information about COVID-19 and a host of other health issues.
  • “Voter fraud gains momentum in Germany,” from A less than favorable result in a regional East German election is spurring far right parties to make unfounded claims of voter fraud ahead of federal elections in September.
  • “Disinformation exports: How foreign anti-vaccine narratives reached West African communities online,” from First Draft. Narratives playing on distrust of Western institutions, falsehoods about depopulation as well as narratives and techniques perfected outside of West Africa for spreading disinformation are raising concerns about increased vaccine hesitancy.

From/for the community: 

  • “Misinformation and the Jan. 6 insurrection: When ‘patriot warriors’ were fed lies,” from PolitiFact. This is the first of a series of articles looking at the role of falsehoods in the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection. PolitiFact reporters used court records and other public documents to profile some of the people charged in the riot.
  • “Punitive laws are failing to curb misinformation in Africa,” from Nieman Lab. IFCN advisory board member Peter Cunliffe-Jones, along with fellow researchers Alan Finlay and Anya Schiffrin, looked into anti-misinformation laws and found they do more to chill all forms of speech rather than cut down on falsehoods.
  • “Poynter and MediaWise announce a new class of Campus Correspondents,” from Poynter. Meet the new crop of eight American college students, who after receiving media literacy training from MediaWise will return to their campuses to help train their classmates.

If you are a fact-checker and you’d like your work/projects/achievements highlighted in the next edition, send us an email at by next Tuesday.

Thanks for reading Factually.

Support high-integrity, independent journalism that serves democracy. Make a gift to Poynter today. The Poynter Institute is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, and your gift helps us make good journalism better.


Harrison Mantas is a reporter for the International Fact-Checking Network covering the wide world of misinformation. He previously worked in Arizona and Washington D.C. for…

More by Harrison Mantas

More News