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A vial with the Johnson & Johnson's one-dose COVID-19 vaccine is seen at the Vaxmobile, at the Uniondale Hempstead Senior Center on March 31, 2021, in Uniondale, N.Y. (AP/Altaffer) A vial with the Johnson & Johnson's one-dose COVID-19 vaccine is seen at the Vaxmobile, at the Uniondale Hempstead Senior Center on March 31, 2021, in Uniondale, N.Y. (AP/Altaffer)

A vial with the Johnson & Johnson's one-dose COVID-19 vaccine is seen at the Vaxmobile, at the Uniondale Hempstead Senior Center on March 31, 2021, in Uniondale, N.Y. (AP/Altaffer)

Bill McCarthy
By Bill McCarthy June 9, 2021

Sherri Tenpenny makes false COVID-19 vaccine magnetism claim to Ohio lawmakers

If Your Time is short

  • The available COVID-19 vaccines do not contain microchips or metallic ingredients that could cause a magnet to stick to a recipient’s body.

  • The CDC says on its website that the vaccines “will not make you magnetic, including at the site of vaccination which is usually your arm. COVID-19 vaccines do not contain ingredients that can produce an electromagnetic field at the site of your injection.”

  • Dr. Sherri Tenpenny is an anti-vaccine activist who has spread false claims about the COVID-19 vaccines before.

An anti-vaccine activist falsely claimed during a hearing with Ohio state legislators that the COVID-19 vaccines are magnetizing people who get them.

Dr. Sherri Tenpenny, an Ohio-based osteopathic physician who wrote a book called "Saying No to Vaccines," has been identified by the news site rating service Newsguard as a "super-spreader" of COVID-19 vaccine misinformation. A watchdog group at McGill University in Montreal found that she is one of 12 influencers responsible for 65% of anti-vaccine misinformation spread on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. 

Tenpenny has previously pushed false claims that the COVID-19 vaccines can cause death and autoimmune disease, disrupt pregnancies and "shed" to affect unvaccinated people

Her latest comments came as she testified at the invitation of Ohio’s Republican lawmakers in favor of a bill that would prevent businesses or the government from requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination, according to the Columbus Dispatch.

"I’m sure you’ve seen the pictures all over the internet of people who’ve had these shots, and now they’re magnetized," Tenpenny said during the June 8 hearing. "They can put a key on their forehead, it sticks. They can put spoons and forks all over them, and they can stick. Because now we think that there’s a metal piece to that."

Those claims are baseless. There are no metallic ingredients in any of the COVID-19 vaccines approved in the U.S. for emergency use, from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. The Food and Drug Administration has published the ingredients for each online.

"There’s nothing there that a magnet can interact with," Thomas Hope, a vaccine researcher at Northwestern University, previously told AFP Fact Check. "It’s protein and lipids, salts, water and chemicals that maintain the pH. That’s basically it, so this is not possible."

PolitiFact and several other fact-checkers previously debunked the videos and "pictures all over the internet" that Tenpenny cited as proof, which purported to show magnets sticking to vaccinated people. The social media posts about vaccine magnetism were so widespread that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention addressed them on its website:

Featured Fact-check

"Can receiving a COVID-19 vaccine cause you to be magnetic? No. Receiving a COVID-19 vaccine will not make you magnetic, including at the site of vaccination which is usually your arm. COVID-19 vaccines do not contain ingredients that can produce an electromagnetic field at the site of your injection. All COVID-19 vaccines are free from metals such as iron, nickel, cobalt, lithium, and rare earth alloys, as well as any manufactured products such as microelectronics, electrodes, carbon nanotubes, and nanowire semiconductors. In addition, the typical dose for a COVID-19 vaccine is less than a milliliter, which is not enough to allow magnets to be attracted to your vaccination site even if the vaccine was filled with a magnetic metal."

Florian Krammer, a professor of vaccinology at New York's Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, previously told PolitiFact the claims about vaccine magnetism were "utter nonsense." 

Other experts told AFP Fact Check that the metal objects highlighted in various online videos and images are likely sticking for other reasons. They could have tape or another adhesive on them, for example. Or they could appear to stick because of the oil on a person’s skin.

Later on in the Ohio House hearing, a nurse tried unsuccessfully to prove Tenpenny’s theory by positioning a key and a bobby pin against her neck. "Explain to me why the key sticks to me. It sticks to my neck too," she said, even as the key she pressed to her neck did not stick.

Tenpenny also claimed that there is "some sort of an interface, ‘yet to be defined’ interface, between what’s being injected in these shots and all of the 5G towers," and that the vaccines have caused thousands of deaths in the U.S. Both of those claims are inaccurate.

Tenpenny did not immediately respond to a request for comment from PolitiFact. She told the Washington Post that she stood by her testimony. 

We rate her claim that the vaccines make people "magnetized" False.

Our Sources

Tyler Buchanan on Twitter, June 8, 2021

The Washington Post, "A doctor falsely told lawmakers vaccines magnetize people: ‘They can put a key on their forehead. It sticks,'" June 9, 2021

The Columbus Dispatch, "GOP-invited Ohio doctor Sherri Tenpenny falsely tells Ohio lawmakers COVID-19 shots 'magnetize' people, create 5G 'interfaces,'" June 9, 2021

U.S. Food and Drug Administration, "Emergency Use Authorization of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine," accessed June 9, 2021

U.S. Food and Drug Administration, "Emergency Use Authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine," accessed June 9, 2021

U.S. Food and Drug Administration, "Emergency Use Authorization of the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine," accessed June 9, 2021

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 Vaccination," June 8, 20221

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Myths and Facts about COVID-19 Vaccines," (archived), June 3, 2021

The Center for Countering Digital Hate at McGill University, "The Disinformation Dozen," March 31, 2021

NewsGuard, "Misinformation about development of a COVID-19 vaccine spreads widely on Facebook," Nov. 30, 2020

PolitiFact, "No, these magnet videos don’t prove the COVID-19 vaccines contain microchips," May 17, 2021

PolitiFact, "Tucker Carlson’s misleading claim about deaths after COVID-19 vaccine," May 6, 2021

PolitiFact, "Debunking the anti-vaccine hoax about ‘vaccine shedding,'" May 6, 2021

PolitiFact, "No, you don’t need to avoid getting pregnant after getting a COVID-19 vaccine," April 26, 2021

PolitiFact, "No, COVID-19 vaccines do not contain nanoparticles that will allow you to be tracked via 5G networks," March 12, 2021

PolitiFact, "COVID-19 vaccine does not cause death, autoimmune diseases," March 4, 2021

Email correspondence with Dr. Paul A. Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and chair of vaccinology at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, June 9, 2021

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Sherri Tenpenny makes false COVID-19 vaccine magnetism claim to Ohio lawmakers

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