Infectious experts are now urging the public more than ever to be vaccinated against influenza. The extra urgency is due in part to the symptoms it shares with COVID-1
The claim: Doctors push an ‘untested’ flu vaccine with a ‘very low strain’ of coronavirus in.
As the flu season approaches, doctors across the country are advocating that people get the seasonal flu vaccine, which health experts say is more important than usual in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. They say having more defenses against the seasonal flu will help put less strain on the medical system, which will then help the country have greater capacity to fight the new coronavirus.
However, some claims on social media have advised against taking the vaccine by incorrectly pooling the flu shot with a potential coronavirus vaccine if the latter is still under development.
Facebook user Madyson Marquette on September 15 posted what she said was an exchange with her son’s pediatrician regarding the flu shot. During the exchange, she said her son’s doctor told her the flu strain for the shot was “Covid, but a very low strain of it.” The implication is that “Covid” refers to the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, the disease that has killed nearly 200,000 Americans.
Marquette’s post says she told the doctor she would not give her child an “untested covid flu shot.” She claims the doctor said they pushed it because the Center for Disease Control and Prevention is asking them to.
“Wake up and for all (it) is holy DO NOT GIVE your children a Covid vaccine !!” said her post.
Marquette’s position held more than 7,000 shares as of Friday afternoon. She did not return a US TODAY request for further information.
More: How the CDC failed public health officials fighting coronavirus
Coronavirus is not a flu strain and it is not in the flu
Both the seasonal flu and the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, are viruses that can cause fever, cough, shortness of breath and other symptoms.
But SARS-CoV-2 is not a flu strain. Instead, it is part of a family of coronaviruses that include some that give people upper respiratory diseases. Experts say the new coronavirus is also much more deadly than the seasonal flu.
This year’s flu shot contains neither coronavirus nor elements intended to protect people from it.
More: Data, data and more data will make a coronavirus vaccine safe, says USA TODAY’s vaccine panel
Every year, researchers update the flu shot to protect those who receive it from flu virus strains. The shoot protects against either three stems (trivalent) or four stems (square). Changes to the 2020-2021 flu vaccine include modified components to control some updated flu strains, but there are no additions to the shot listed to fight coronavirus, according to the CDC website.
A Reuters fact-finding review of the content of influenza vaccines approved by the US Food and Drug Administration found no SARS-CoV-2 or other coronavirus.
The FDA tests and approves all flu vaccines, according to the CDC, meaning no child or adult would be offered an “untested” flu shot by a doctor.
Influenza shots, explained: It is crucial to get a flu shot this year in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, doctors say
Neither the CDC nor any doctor pushes a coronavirus vaccine because there is no one to push. The vaccine is still under development and it is unknown with certainty when it will be widely available in the United States.
According to the New York Times’ Coronavirus Vaccine Tracker, 40 vaccines are in clinical trials in humans, and at least 92 are being tested on animals. Some vaccines in China and Russia have been approved for early or limited use, but none have reached the point of being administered to the American public.
Medical professionals have also rejected the idea that those taking the flu vaccine are more likely to test positive for coronavirus or get sick from it. According to the CDC, there is no evidence that both would occur. The CDC also says the flu vaccine does not protect against catching coronavirus.
Our decision: False
While the exact wording of the oral exchange between the author of the Facebook post and her son’s pediatrician is unknown, her post contains several false allegations.
COVID-19 is not a flu strain – it is a coronavirus – and would not be present in a seasonal flu vaccine. The current flu shot does not contain the new coronavirus, nor is there any evidence that receiving the shot would increase or decrease a person’s chances of catching COVID-19. Each flu shot is examined and approved by the FDA, so it is not “untested”. And no coronavirus vaccine has reached it beyond the clinical trial phase in the United States and is thus not available to the public at this time.
For these reasons, we rate this post as FALSE.
Our sources for fact checking:
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, July 12, 2018, When is the flu season?
- USA today, August 17th. A flu shot doesn’t always protect you, but in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s more important than ever
- Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, September 18, Coronavirus Resource Center
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, August 31st. What is the difference between influenza (CO) and COVID-19?
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, August 31, Influenza (Influenza): What You Need to Know for 2020-21
- Reuters, September 18, fact check: The flu vaccine is not an untested COVID-19
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, September 10, influenza (influenza): How to make flu vaccines
- USA Today, September 17, Data, data and more data will make a coronavirus vaccine safe, says USA TODAY’s vaccine panel
- The New York Times, September 18, Coronavirus vaccine tracker
- USA Today, April 1, Fact Check: Getting the flu shot makes you no more (or less) likely to get coronavirus
Ian Richardson covers the Iowa Statehouse for the Des Moines Register. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @DMRIanR.
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