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:
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Vaccinated people aren’t nine times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID
Claim: People who are vaccinated against COVID-19 are nine times more likely to be hospitalized than those who are unvaccinated.
The facts: The false assertion that vaccinated people are more likely to be hospitalized is based on one former physician assistant’s claim that 90% of all patients admitted to her hospital during a recent period were vaccinated against COVID-19. But the hospital records show the vaccination rate was far lower and there was no evidence of any connection between vaccination status and the various illnesses that led to the hospitalizations.
A post circulating on Instagram last month cites a blog post by a lawyer representing Deborah Conrad, a former physician assistant at United Memorial Medical Center in Batavia, New York, to falsely claim that people are “9x more likely to be hospitalized if they are vaccinated over unvaccinated patients.”
Conrad wrote to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Food and Drug Administration earlier this year warning of possible “serious injuries from COVID-19 vaccines.” In the blog post, it notes that Conrad saw the number of patients in the hospital had “increased dramatically” and claimed that 90% of them were vaccinated against COVID. The hospital disputes her figures.
Conrad provides no information for when the patients she reported were hospitalized, and her spokespeople declined to clarify. Her letter was sent in July 2021, and in it, she claims to have alerted the FDA of her concerns in April and May. Hospital records show that in July, just 60% of the facility’s inpatients had received the vaccine, according to Rochester Regional Health spokesperson Jillian Parker. In early April, 15% of hospital patients were vaccinated. And on May 24, 25% of the hospital patients were vaccinated.
Conrad also argued that she found an increase in various illnesses — including blood clots, Bell’s palsy, pneumonia and strokes — after the initial roll out of the COVID-19 vaccine. She logged these in VAERS, or the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, which allows anyone to submit reports.
But VAERS reports are not verified and do not prove that the illnesses are connected to the vaccine.
In a response to The Associated Press, Conrad’s legal team acknowledged that she “did not speculate on causation and only did what she was obligated to do: report to VAERS any adverse event following vaccination that led to hospitalization.”
No doctors or experts at the hospital raised the same concerns about a rise of these illnesses, Parker said.
Parker acknowledged that admissions had gone up at the time, but said the hospital attributed the rise to other factors, including patients who had deferred care during the height of the COVID pandemic, or scheduling elective surgery that had been put off.
Conrad’s lawyer said she “stands by her observations and her reporting.”
Several experts told the AP that studies have shown serious side effects from the vaccine to be rare. And many of the illnesses Conrad listed — including Bell’s palsy, pneumonia and strokes — are not known side effects of the shots, they said.
“The vaccine is not causing all of these conditions that she’s concerned about,” said Dr. Melanie Swift, the associate medical director for occupational health service at the Mayo Clinic.
As more of the country is vaccinated, the community’s vaccination rate will be reflected in hospitals’ patients, Swift explained. Blood clots have been one of the rare side effects of the vaccine and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was briefly paused in 2020 over those concerns. But federal regulators allowed the shots to resume less than two weeks later after the risk was found to be rare.
— Associated Press writer Karena Phan in Santa Maria, California, contributed this report.
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Queensland is not punishing unvaccinated people for coughing in public
Claim: Australia is punishing unvaccinated people who cough or sneeze in public with fines and jail time.
The facts: Authorities in Queensland, Australia, are not punishing unvaccinated people who cough or sneeze in public. However, people who intentionally spit, cough or sneeze on public officials or workers, or threaten to do so, face fines and jail time under an April 2020 public health order issued amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In December 2021, Queensland officials announced that the policy, which applies to both vaccinated and unvaccinated people, would be expanded to include more types of workers.
Inaccurate claims regarding the directive have since circulated widely on social media.
One erroneous tweet posted Sunday falsely claimed that “from the 17th of December, The Unvaccinated will be fined up to $13,000 or 6 months in prison, for offences such as sneezing or coughing in public.” The claims leave out the fact that the policy, which isn’t new, only applies to deliberate acts of sneezing, coughing, or spitting on public officials or workers, as well as threats to do so, according to Queensland officials.
“These measures aren’t targeting unvaccinated people. If you go into a retail store or a coffee shop or anywhere and deliberately cough on someone with the intent of causing fear, it doesn’t matter if you’re vaccinated or not, you’re causing an offense,” a spokesperson for Queensland Health told The Associated Press.
Earlier this month, Queensland officials announced that they would relax COVID-19 measures for businesses and add a variety of new restrictions for unvaccinated people. As part of the new measures, the existing policy regarding intentional coughing, sneezing, or spitting will be expanded to include such deliberate acts against hospitality workers.
Violating the directive is punishable by fines up to $13,785 or a maximum of six months imprisonment.
The policy covers workers while they are at their place of work and during their commutes to and from work. The current directive states that there are “increasing reports of people intentionally spitting at or coughing or sneezing on public officials and workers during the COVID-19 declared public health emergency.”
During a Dec. 7 news conference, Yvette D’Ath, the Queensland minister for health and ambulance services, said that the measure was intended to “protect” workers from “appalling behavior” while they were just trying to do their jobs.
— Associated Press writer Josh Kelety in Phoenix contributed this report.
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Santa wasn’t arrested for mask violation at German market
Claim: Santa was arrested at a Christmas market in Germany because he wasn’t wearing a mask.
The facts: A man in a Santa costume was detained by police at a Christmas market in Stralsund, Germany, but police said it was because he refused to show identification at an unregistered protest against vaccine mandates, not because he wasn’t wearing a mask.
A video circulating on Twitter shows a man dressed like Santa being escorted out of a Christmas market in Germany. The video is accompanied by claims on social media saying he refused to wear a mask.
A statement issued by the Stralsund Police said that authorities responded late Monday to a report of an unregistered gathering at the ‘Old Market’ square in Stralsund, where about 65 people had gathered and “appeared to be voicing their opinion on the current coronavirus measures and a vaccine mandate.”
Parliament last week approved compulsory vaccinations for health care professionals, but a general vaccine mandate isn’t in force.
Officers asked participants to show their IDs, noting that the gathering wasn’t registered and therefore constituted a criminal offense for the organizer. The man dressed as Santa, who wasn’t working at the Christmas market, refused to provide his name to officers, according to the report, and pulled away as police escorted him out.
The police statement said a complaint was made against the 47-year-old local man “on suspicion of resisting law enforcement officers,” among other allegations. He was released by police that evening after being identified.
The incident is similar to another case elsewhere in Germany this month. A video claimed to show an elderly woman being detained by police because she didn’t have a vaccine passport. However, police said the woman, 80, was being briefly detained during an unauthorized protest because she did not provide German authorities with identification.
Witnesses confirmed the police account. According to authorities, only IDs were checked on the scene, not vaccination passports.
— Associated Press writers Frank Jordans in Berlin and Phan contributed this report.
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Clips show 2020 protests in France, not anti-vaccine rallies
Claim: Video shows people rioting against vaccine mandates in France.
The facts: The videos recently posted on social media show scenes from November 2020 protests against a security law in France that would restrict the filming of police officers, not an anti-vaccine demonstration.
The widely shared video pieced together two clips taken by separate people during the 2020 protests in Paris to make the false claim that the footage is from 2021.
The video shows protesters clashing with police while surrounded by clouds of tear gas. “Horror in France as vaccine mandate riot sees protesters beaten by armed police — WATCH,” a Twitter post stated.
“Looks like the French police are losing,” wrote another.
But the clips were first posted on social media in November 2020, when dozens of rallies took place against an initial provision in the law that would make it illegal to publish photos or video of on-duty police officers with harmful intent, The Associated Press reported at the time.
The miscaptioned video in the Twitter post uses two separate clips from the protests. The first 40 seconds of the post came from a Facebook livestream recorded on Nov. 28, 2020, by Vécu, a French media outlet. It shows rioting near Bastille Majestic Cinema Paris, which is visible in the background. The footage in the second portion of the video, from 0:40 to 1:21, showing rioters attacking police was taken by French journalist Amar Taoualit, and features a watermark with his Twitter handle @Taoualitamar. Taoualit confirmed to the AP that he filmed the material in the second portion of the video on Nov. 28, 2020, during demonstrations against the security law.
— Associated Press writer Arijeta Lajka in New York contributed this report.
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Fox News is not banned in Canada or the UK
Claim: Canada and the U.K. both banned Fox News.
The facts: Neither Canada nor the U.K. has banned Fox News. The network remains authorized for distribution in Canada, and it voluntarily pulled itself from U.K. airwaves in 2017.
A widely shared tweet purporting to share a “FUN FACT” falsely claimed that the two major U.S. allies had permanently banned the television channel. However, the claim isn’t a “fact” at all. Instead, it parrots a false narrative that has circulated online for years.
Fox News is currently authorized for distribution in Canada, said Isabella Maestri, a spokesperson for Canada’s broadcasting regulator, the Canadian Radio‑television and Telecommunications Commission.
The channel is featured on a public list of non-Canadian services and stations that are greenlit for distribution in Canada, accessible on the CRTC’s website. Being on that list means that a Canadian television provider is authorized to distribute the service, Maestri told the AP in an email.
The Canadian Cable Television Association first sought permission to broadcast Fox News and several other non-Canadian networks in the country in 2003, according to an archived letter on the CRTC’s website. The CRTC rejected that request, citing concerns about competitiveness and a need for more information. A year later, in 2004, the CRTC approved Fox News for distribution.
The AP has previously debunked the claim that the U.K. banned Fox News. According to both Fox News and U.K. officials, U.K. regulators never banned the channel from operating in the region. Instead, Fox News voluntarily stopped broadcasting in the U.K. in 2017 due to the channel’s low viewership there.
— Associated Press writer Ali Swenson in New York contributed this report with additional reporting from Kelety and Angelo Fichera in Philadelphia.
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This story has been updated to correct the location of United Memorial Medical Center. It is in Batavia, New York, not Rochester, New York.
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