NOT REAL NEWS: A look at what didn’t happen this week
A roundup of some of the most popular but completely untrue stories and visuals of the week. None of these are legit, even though they were shared widely on social media. The Associated Press checked them out. Here are the facts:
Video misrepresents voluntary vaccine clinic outside Idaho school
CLAIM: A video shows U.S. government agents forcing students at an Idaho middle school to receive COVID-19 vaccines behind the building.
THE FACTS: An incendiary video circulating widely on social media this week weaponizes footage from a voluntary, health district-run vaccine clinic to push the false narrative that the U.S. military is forcibly vaccinating children. “You’re about to see some disturbing footage,” the video’s narrator says over suspenseful music. “You’re going to see government agents escort children to their execution, to a little shed behind the school in secrecy. They pull these children out of class, they force them into getting the vaccine and they inject them in broad daylight.” The narrator refers to immunizing children as a “genocide,” even though the FDA has declared that the Pfizer vaccine is safe and offers strong protection to children as young as 12. The narrator also claims the press wasn’t invited “to witness the lethal injection.” As the narrator speaks, a video clip shows students milling in and out of a tent outside their school. The Panhandle Health District arranged the voluntary vaccine clinic at Coeur d’Alene’s Canfield Middle School on May 28 to “reduce barriers individuals may have to receiving the vaccine” and “make it convenient for students and parents,” said Katherine Hoyer, public information officer for the health agency. It was one of several clinics held at local schools in the spring, according to Scott Maben, communications director for Coeur d’Alene Public Schools. Maben confirmed that the event was “completely voluntary and with parent permission” and that it was organized by the Panhandle Health District, with the middle school as a venue. Maben also explained there was no truth to claims that this or other vaccine clinics at local schools were hidden from the public. “The health department announced these clinics publicly weeks in advance, and we shared the sign-up links and parental permission form with middle and high school parents,” Maben said. “A few weeks prior to this I invited local media to attend the first vaccination clinic at a high school.” Members of the Idaho National Guard helped facilitate the clinics because they were deployed by Idaho Gov. Brad Little to assist local health districts with the COVID-19 response, which includes vaccination efforts, Hoyer said.
— Associated Press writer Ali Swenson in Seattle contributed this report.
Inaccurate data spreads about COVID hospitalizations in the UK
CLAIM: Sixty percent of people being admitted to the hospital for COVID-19 in England have had two doses of coronavirus vaccine.
THE FACTS: The opposite is true. Sixty percent of people who are hospitalized with COVID-19 in the U.K. are unvaccinated. Sir Patrick Vallance, chief scientific advisor for the U.K., gave the wrong statistic at a press conference Monday, but issued a correction later that day. “Correcting a statistic I gave at the press conference today, 19 July,” Vallance wrote in his post. “About 60% of hospitalisations from covid are not from double vaccinated people, rather 60% of hospitalisations from covid are currently from unvaccinated people.” Nevertheless, social media users quickly ran with the inaccurate information without acknowledging the correction. An Instagram post with 21,000 likes shows a screenshot of a tweet from media site Disclose.tv that says, “JUST IN- 60% of people being admitted to the hospital with #COVID19 in England have had two doses of a coronavirus vaccine, according to the government’s chief scientific adviser.” The user who posted the image to Instagram captioned it, “This is playing out just as many predicted…” Emma Griffiths, head of communications at the U.K. Government Office for Science, also affirmed the corrected statistic in an email to The Associated Press. “Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance yesterday clarified, 60% of hospitalisations from COVID-19 are currently from unvaccinated people,” Griffiths said. Neither the Government Office for Science nor Public Health England immediately responded to inquiries about what caused the initial error.
— Associated Press writer Terrence Fraser in New York contributed this report.
Canada does not ban vaccinated pilots from flying
CLAIM: Canada prohibits vaccinated pilots from flying because the COVID-19 vaccine is a “medical trial” and there are health risks involved with such trials.
THE FACTS: Canada’s transportation agency allows pilots to receive any vaccine that’s been approved by the country’s health regulator, Health Canada, according to Transport Canada Senior Communications Adviser Sau Sau Liu. All four COVID-19 vaccines available in Canada — vaccines made by Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca — went through extensive clinical trials, were found to be safe and effective, and were authorized for use by Health Canada. Therefore, pilots are allowed to get the vaccines. The false claim started with a screenshot of a 2020 web page from Transport Canada. Text on the page stated that while Transport Canada Civil Aviation Medicine “places no restrictions or limitations on vaccines approved by Health Canada, it remains the general position of TC CAM that participation in medical trials is not considered compatible with aviation medical certification.” The screenshot circulated on Twitter, Facebook and various Canadian websites and message boards with claims Canada had banned pilots from flying if they were vaccinated for COVID-19. Twitter users claimed the COVID-19 vaccines were categorized as medical trials. However, receiving a COVID-19 vaccine is not grounds for pilots to be blocked from flying in Canada, nor are the vaccines considered medical trials, according to Liu. The outdated screenshot circulating online is a relic from early in the pandemic, when pilots were asking Transport Canada if they could take part in early-stage COVID-19 vaccine trials, Liu said. At that time, the agency reminded pilots that participation in medical trials is typically not considered compatible with aviation certification. “Now that Health Canada has approved the vaccines, the comment regarding medical trials is less relevant,” Liu said. The web page has been updated to clarify that pilots won’t be grounded or denied certification for getting one of the four COVID-19 vaccines approved by Health Canada.
— Ali Swenson
Photo of flooding manipulated to add anti-Thunberg sticker on car
CLAIM: Photo shows German car caught in floodwaters with anti-Greta Thunberg sticker on rear window.
THE FACTS: Last week, as severe floods in Germany and Belgium turned streets into raging torrents, a manipulated photo circulated on social media that appears to show a BMW half-submerged in the floodwaters with a sticker on the rear window saying “F— you Greta.” The sticker, which was added digitally to the original image, was an apparent reference to Greta Thunberg, the well-known Swedish environmental activist. Twitter users shared the manipulated photo and claimed it was “ironic” and an example of “karma.” The photo was also shared widely on Facebook. The original, unaltered photo, which does not include the sticker, was featured in a July 16 article about car water damage during severe weather by German media outlet Bild. Photographer David Young captured the photo for Bild in the city of Wuppertal last week. The sticker does not appear in the original photo. “It is my photo and it has been manipulated,” Young told the AP in a call. “The sticker is fake.”
— Associated Press writer Arijeta Lajka in New York contributed this report.
Satire fuels false claims of ‘quarantine camps’ for unvaccinated in US
CLAIM: President Joe Biden recently announced that Americans not vaccinated for COVID-19 before 2022 will be sent to quarantine camps until they get their shots.
THE FACTS: An image circulating widely on Instagram this week pushes the false claim that Biden is planning on sending Americans to “quarantine camps.” Biden has not made any such announcement. The image shows a screenshot of an article from the website ValueWalk.com, featuring an illustration of the president. “Announces Americans Not Vaccinated Before 2022 Will Be Put In Camps,” reads the visible part of the story’s headline. The text of the story claims Biden will detain people “indefinitely until they get their shots.” An internet search finds the story does appear on ValueWalk.com, which bills itself as a nonpartisan financial news website. However, at the bottom of the story, the text reveals the post is satire and originated on The Stonk Market, a financial satire website. The COVID-19 vaccine is not mandatory in the United States and Biden has not announced any plans to detain people who choose not to get vaccinated. Biden continues to encourage Americans to get vaccinated as the nation sees rising COVID-19 case numbers driven by large pockets of infection among people who have yet to get shots.
— Ali Swenson
French flag photo shows World Cup celebration, not protests
CLAIM: Photo of a blonde woman holding a French flag above a large crowd shows recent protests in Paris over the government’s latest coronavirus measures.
THE FACTS: The image shows celebrations in Paris in July 2018 after France won the World Cup, not a recent protest. More than 100,000 people protested across France on Saturday against the government’s recent measures to make vaccines compulsory for all health care workers and to require a “health pass” for access to restaurants and other public venues. Twitter and Facebook users shared a photo over the weekend of a blonde woman holding a large French flag near a crowd filling the Champs-Elysees with vague references to a “revolution” and unsubstantiated claims that millions of people attended the protests. But a reverse-image search shows the image was taken by an AFP photographer in July 2018. It appeared in news reports about celebrations in Paris after France won that year’s World Cup. “This picture taken from the top of the Arch of Triumph (Arc de Triomphe) on July 15, 2018 shows people celebrating France’s victory in the Russia 2018 World Cup final football match between France and Croatia, on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris,” reads a caption of the photo on Getty Images.
— Ali Swenson
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The Associated Press