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Monique Curet
By Monique Curet July 27, 2021

Video uses misleading labels to suggest that COVID-19 vaccinations were faked

If Your Time is short

• A video montage that purports to show fake vaccinations depicted real events in misleading ways.

• One clip in the montage shows then-Vice President-elect Kamala Harris being vaccinated. There is no evidence that the vaccination was fake.

The December 2020 rollout of COVID-19 vaccines prompted campaigns in which public officials and health care workers got their shots in front of TV cameras to help promote vaccination. 

These campaigns also ushered in a new wave of misinformation, including false claims about "disappearing needles" and staged public vaccinations.

Months after they were debunked, some of the same claims are still making the rounds.

A July 19 Facebook post — with the caption "Watch carefully.... so you think you haven't been brainwashed" — includes a video montage that suggests people who got COVID-19 shots while on camera, including Vice President Kamala Harris, were faking being vaccinated. 

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

Of six vaccinations shown in the montage, at least five are depicted in false or misleading ways; the montage incorporates one claim that first circulated and was debunked in December 2020. 

The first segment of the video shows Christine Elliott, minister of health for the Canadian province of Ontario, getting a shot. However, the footage is from October 2019 when Elliott received a routine flu vaccine, which was documented at that time in a Facebook post and video from a local TV station. 

The second segment in the Facebook video purports to depict Israeli politician Beni Ben Muvchar receiving a vaccine in December 2020. The video zooms in on the syringe being used, which appears to have no needle, and a Spanish-language text overlay says, "does not have a needle, isn’t loaded" and "she doesn’t push the plunger."

Muvchar, in fact, did not receive a vaccine at that time. The clip of Muvchar is from a short promotional video intended to encourage others to get vaccinated, and "for the purposes of the video, a nurse pretends to give (Muvchar) the vaccine," according to The Observers/France 24

The video had 2.8 million views on Facebook and was shared more than 70,000 times. Because of the furor over the staged demonstration, Muvchar posted a different video on Facebook of his actual vaccination. 

Featured Fact-check

For the third segment, about five seconds long, we were unable to identify the person being vaccinated or the setting. 

The fourth segment in the Facebook video shows a health care worker administering a vaccine, and after the syringe is removed from the patient’s arm, the needle is no longer visible. A Spanish-language text overlay on the Facebook video says, "Now you see the needle ... and now you don’t."

The footage was from a real news story by BBC News, but the claim about the disappearing needles was debunked by the media outlet in December 2020. The syringe in the footage is a safety syringe, "in which the needle retracts into the body of the device after use," BBC News reported

The fifth segment shows a nurse getting the shot at University Medical Center in El Paso, Texas, and the video zooms in on the syringe, which appeared to have had the plunger already depressed.

TV station KFOX14 said the footage was captured by its photojournalist during a public vaccination event, and the empty syringe appears to have been a mistake. The medical center said the nurse was vaccinated again properly after the center was alerted about it. The TV station reviewed footage of other nurses being vaccinated at the same event and did not see the same issue in any other case. 

The final segment in the Facebook video shows then-Vice President-elect Harris being vaccinated. The video zooms in on the nurse pushing the syringe against the arm of the chair where Harris is seated. Reuters reported that the nurse was using the arm rest to snap the cap back onto the syringe. The nurse wasn’t able to use her other hand to do this because it was on Harris’ arm.

Reuters reported that the exposed needle was visible in videos of Harris’ vaccination and that media photos clearly show the needle in her arm.

Our ruling

A Facebook post includes a video montage that purports to show that people who got COVID-19 shots while on camera, including Harris, were faking being vaccinated. 

The video clips included in the montage are of real events, but they are depicted and labeled in misleading ways. One of the video segments shows a flu shot that was administered in 2019, and another shows a staged promotional event. Other parts of the video mischaracterize the type of medical equipment used or mistakes that occurred during vaccinations and were later corrected. 

We rate this claim False.

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More by Monique Curet

Video uses misleading labels to suggest that COVID-19 vaccinations were faked

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