Fact check: COVID-19 vaccines don’t cause magnetic reactions or contain tracking devices

The claim: COVID-19 vaccines contain microchips or other tracking devices, cause magnetic reaction

As the COVID-19 vaccine rollout continues, albeit slower compared to previous weeks, and the age eligibility expands to include children 12 and older, one social media post is revisiting fears stirred early on during the pandemic.

The May 10 Instagram post from an account called Keep_Canada_Free shows a video of an unidentified masked woman demonstrating with a small silver magnet that appears to stick to one arm, where she supposedly received the Pfizer shot, but not the other, unvaccinated arm.

“You go figure it out. We’re chipped,” she tells her viewers.

The 25-second video has had over 20,000 views on Instagram and has been shared on social media platforms such as Twitter, where a resized version posted on May 8 also includes the claim the vaccine has “magnetic reactions.”

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It’s unclear whether the woman was actually vaccinated or used a real magnet – USA TODAY reached out to Keep_Canada_Free for comment – but one thing is clear: The COVID-19 vaccines don’t cause magnetic reactions or contain tracking devices.

Ties to conspiracy theories

The claim the COVID-19 vaccines contain microchips originates from a conspiracy theory claiming Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is behind a global scheme to secretly implant and track billions of people.

Gates has repeatedly denied the claim, and USA TODAY, as well as other independent fact-checking organizations, have found no evidence to support it.

Microchips using radio-frequency identification, or RFID, technology were also purportedly contained within the COVID-19 vaccines. The claim grew from news of a partnership between the federal government and ApiJect Systems to create a high-speed supply chain for pre-filled syringes with RFID-tracking capabilities, USA TODAY reported.

The Connecticut-based company was awarded $1.3 billion in May 2020 to make its single-use syringes compatible for the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, but the technology is still in “testing and regulatory reviews,” according to NBC News in April.

While pharmacies, hospitals, health agencies and private providers do employ electronic health records and other digital databases to track who has been immunized, there are no such technologies inherent in any of the vaccines, both Pfizer and Moderna told USA TODAY.

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The claim the COVID-19 vaccines can cause magnetic reactions is also unfounded, said virologist Angela Rasmussen affiliated with Georgetown University.

“This is so silly. The vaccines do not magnetize your arm,” she told USA TODAY. “This seems like the person in the video just stuck the magnet to their arm (with sweat, etc).”

Our rating: False

Based on our research, we rate the claim the COVID-19 vaccines contain tracking devices like microchips or cause magnetic reactions FALSE. There is no evidence to suggest such technologies are contained in the vaccines. Experts say a magnetic reaction as a vaccine side effect is completely unfounded.

Our fact-check sources:

  • USA TODAY, May 5, States prepare for long grind as demand for COVID-19 vaccinations in US slows
  • Carlos Del Valle, May 8, Twitter post
  • USA TODAY, May 11, Most unvaccinated US adults don’t want the shot; FDA authorizes Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds: Live COVID-19 updates
  • USA TODAY, June 20, 2020, Bill Gates is not secretly plotting microchips in a coronavirus vaccine. Misinformation and conspiracy theories are dangerous for everyone.
  • Business Insider, July 23, 2020, Bill Gates shot down a conspiracy theory that he wants a global coronavirus vaccine rollout so he can implant microchips into people
  • Agence France-Presse, June 25, 2020, Hoax about Bill Gates’ plan to ‘microchip the vaccine’ circulates online
  • USA TODAY, June 15, 2020, Fact check: Bill Gates is not planning to microchip the world through a COVID-19 vaccine
  • USA TODAY, Dec. 17, 2020, Fact check: Syringes with RFID technology track vaccines, not recipients
  • NBC News, April 21, The Trump admin awarded a firm up to $1.3 billion to make Covid vaccine syringes. Where are they?
  • USA TODAY, Jan. 19, Fact check: Health and Human Services’ Brett Giroir confirms vaccine distribution is tracked to ensure dosing
  • Angela Rasmussen, May 11, Twitter interview

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Our fact check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.

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