We’re tracking the top myths about COVID-19 — and the more than 457 websites spreading them.
As COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread across the globe, so does disinformation and misinformation about the disease. From false cures to conspiracy theories about the virus’ origin to misinformation about the vaccine, myths about COVID-19 can have dangerous and real-world consequences.
Follow the spread of this dangerous information with NewsGuard’s Coronavirus Misinformation Tracking Center.
On this page, NewsGuard’s team of journalists is tracking the top myths about COVID-19 and the COVID-19 vaccine and cataloguing the number of websites spreading those myths.
As of our latest update, NewsGuard so far has identified 456 websites publishing misinformation about COVID-19 in the U.S., U.K., France, Germany and Italy. Researchers, platforms, advertertisers, governmental bodies, and health institutions interested in licensing the list can contact us for licensing information.
Websites on the list include publishers notorious for publishing false health content, political sites whose embrace of conspiracy theories extends well beyond politics, and new sites that were created specifically to spread misinformation about COVID-19.
Among the myths published by the websites are false claims that drinking bleach or colloidal silver will cure the virus, false claims that the COVID-19 vaccine will change patient’s DNA or implant a tracking microchip, and false claims that methods like masks and social distancing are ineffective in slowing the spread of the virus.
The COVID-19 Misinformation Tracking Center is a work in progress about a story that has new developments daily. If you have come across a false story about COVID-19, please report it here or contact us via our misinformation hotline.
For more information about NewsGuard’s approach to tracking coronavirus misinformation, read this piece on the topic from our lead health analyst, listen to this story on NPR, or watch this segment with the BBC. For reliable information on the COVID-19 virus, consult the websites of public health institutions such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.
Websites Identified Publishing False Coronavirus Information: 457
- United States: 279
- United Kingdom: 20
- France: 58
- Germany: 41
- Italy: 41
- Other: 17
Editor’s Note: Recent reports have raised anew the possibility that the COVID-19 pandemic may have been precipitated by a leak from a Chinese research lab in Wuhan. As with all subjects, NewsGuard seeks to be careful in distinguishing between unsubstantiated claims published on the websites we review versus provably false claims. For example, reports that a Harvard professor was arrested for creating the COVID-19 virus are provably false, while claims that the virus leaked from a lab are not substantiated but not, as of now, provably false.
Thus, the notion that the virus leaked from the lab is not, and has never been, listed below as a “COVID-19 Myth” because while not substantiated, it is also, as of now, not provably false.
In a recent review of NewsGuard’s Nutrition Labels covering 246 websites that mentioned examples about the origins of the COVID-19 virus, we found that in 225 of those cases we adhered to that standard by describing the lab leak claim as unsubstantiated, not false. However, in 21 instances, our language was not as careful as it should have been; in those cases, NewsGuard either mischaracterized the sites’ claims about the lab leak theory, referred to the lab leak as a “conspiracy theory,” or wrongly grouped together unproven claims about the lab leak with the separate, false claim that the COVID-19 virus was man-made without explaining that one claim was unsubstantiated, and the other was false. NewsGuard apologizes for these errors. We have made the appropriate correction on each of the 21 labels.
However, because NewsGuard’s approach to rating websites involves looking at much more than a single story, a single topic, or even a single editorial practice, no site was given a Red rating by NewsGuard solely because it speculated or asserted that the COVID-19 virus leaked from a lab. In all of the Nutrition Labels we reviewed, Red-rated sites had promoted other false or unsubstantiated claims, including false claims that the COVID-19 virus was created in a U.S. military lab, that it was engineered using parts of HIV, or that it was stolen from a Canadian lab by Chinese spies. (June 17, 2021)
COVID-19 Myths: False Cures, Conspiracy Theories, and More
During the initial spread of COVID-19, a number of myths spread pushing conspiracy theories about the virus’ origins and false “cures” and treatments for the virus.
This list of top COVID-19 myths covers the most prominent of those theories and how they initially emerged.
- MYTH: “The COVID-19 virus was stolen out of a Canadian lab by Chinese spies.”
- MYTH: “The COVID-19 virus contains ‘HIV-like insertions,’ suggesting it was engineered.”
- MYTH: “The COVID-19 pandemic was predicted in a simulation.”
- MYTH: “A group funded by Bill Gates patented the COVID-19 virus.”
- MYTH: “The COVID-19 virus is a manmade bioweapon.”
- MYTH: “5G cell phone technology is linked to the coronavirus outbreak.”
- MYTH: “Colloidal silver can cure COVID-19.”
- MYTH: “Miracle Mineral Solution can cure COVID-19.”
- MYTH: “Garlic can cure COVID-19.”
- MYTH: “High doses of vitamin C have been proven to be an effective treatment for COVID-19.”
- MYTH: “Lemon and hot water can cure COVID-19.”
- MYTH: “The Italian Government is preventing migrants from being tested for COVID-19.”
- MYTH: “Bill Gates plans to use COVID-19 to implement a mandatory vaccine program with microchips to surveil people.”
- MYTH: “Getting a flu shot increases your risk of getting COVID-19.”
- MYTH: “Wearing a face mask can cause hypercapnia, a condition of too much carbon dioxide”
- MYTH: “Wearing a face mask will push the COVID-19 virus into your brain”
- MYTH: “George Soros owns a lab in Wuhan where the coronavirus was created”
- MYTH: “The French Pasteur Institute patented the virus”
- MYTH: “The French government authorized euthanasia in the middle of the crisis”
- MYTH: In Europe, “Contact tracing apps were automatically installed on people’s smartphones without their consent”
- MYTH: “The COVID-19 virus was engineered in a laboratory at the University of North Carolina”
- MYTH: “Dr. Anthony Fauci will personally profit from a COVID-19 vaccine”
Top COVID-19 Vaccine Myths
Scientists and researchers managed to produce vaccines to protect against COVID-19. Vaccine candidates have recently been approved in some countries and are in the approval process in others, yet misinformation about the safety and effects of any future vaccine is already threatening its rollout. On our Top COVID-19 Vaccine Myths tracker, we catalogue the top myths about a COVID-19 vaccine that have appeared in NewsGuard’s ratings of more than 6,000 news and information sites worldwide.
- MYTH: The mRNA vaccines being developed for COVID-19 will alter human DNA.
- MYTH: COVID-19 vaccines are not being tested against a placebo in clinical trials.
- MYTH: The COVID-19 vaccine will use microchip surveillance technology created by Bill Gates-funded research.
- MYTH: Dr. Anthony Fauci will personally profit from a COVID-19 vaccine.
- MYTH: A new law in Colorado will force parents into a government-run re-education program if they refuse to give their children a COVID-19 vaccine.
- MYTH: The COVID-19 vaccine has been proven to cause infertility in 97 percent of its recipients.
- MYTH: COVID-19 vaccines will contain aborted human fetal tissue.
- MYTH: The COVID-19 vaccine being developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca will turn people into monkeys.
- MYTH: Government food stamps will be denied to those who refuse COVID-19 vaccines.
- MYTH: The U.K. Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) will use artificial intelligence to monitor the safety of COVID-19 vaccines because the agency knows that vaccines are extremely dangerous.
- MYTH: A document on the FDA website shows that two participants died as a result of “serious adverse events” from an experimental COVID-19 vaccine.
- MYTH: The virus mutates so fast that a vaccine will never work.
- MYTH: The head of research at Pfizer said the company’s COVID-19 vaccine contains a protein called syncytin-1 that will result in female sterilization.
- MYTH: COVID-19 vaccine injections, shown during press events being delivered to health care workers, are fabricated, using syringes with “disappearing needles.”
- MYTH: A nurse in Alabama died hours after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
- MYTH: The COVID-19 vaccines violate the Nuremberg Code, which bans medical experiments from being performed on humans without their consent.
- MYTH: The COVID-19 vaccines will cause “pathogenic priming” or “disease enhancement,” meaning that vaccinated individuals will be more likely to develop severe cases of COVID-19 if they are infected with the COVID-19 virus.
- MYTH: The COVID-19 vaccine can cause people to develop COVID-19.
- MYTH: The mRNA vaccines for COVID-19 do not fit the CDC and FDA’s definitions of a vaccine, which state that vaccines have to both stimulate immunity and disrupt transmission of a virus.
- MYTH: Hank Aaron’s death is linked to the COVID-19 vaccine.
- MYTH: A Tennessee nurse named Tiffany Dover died after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine on live TV.
- MYTH: COVID-19 vaccines are not halal or kosher because they contain pork products.
- MYTH: The trials for COVID-19 vaccines were not designed to show the vaccines’ effectiveness in preventing severe cases of the disease.
- MYTH: American boxer Marvin Hagler’s death is linked to the COVID-19 vaccine.
- MYTH: Scientists at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center have discovered that mRNA inactivates tumor-suppressing proteins, meaning that mRNA vaccines used to protect against COVID-19 can cause cancer.
- MYTH: COVID-19 vaccines have been proven to increase the risk of having a miscarriage.
- MYTH: Vaccines are increasing the number of new variants of the COVID-19 virus and making vaccinated individuals more likely to infect others with new super-strains.
- MYTH: PCR tests used to detect the virus that causes COVID-19 can also be used to secretly deliver the COVID-19 vaccine, according to research from Johns Hopkins University.
- MYTH: Life insurance companies won’t pay out benefits to anyone who dies after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine because the vaccines are considered experimental.
- MYTH: MRNA COVID-19 vaccines can cause an increase in rare neurodegenerative disorders called prion diseases.
- MYTH: Being in close proximity to someone who has received a COVID-19 vaccine can cause unvaccinated women to have a miscarriage or experience menstrual cycle changes.
- MYTH: People vaccinated with COVID-19 vaccines can shed disease-causing particles to others.
- MYTH: The increase in COVID-19 cases and deaths in India between February and May 2021 was caused by COVID-19 vaccinations.
- MYTH: Videos posted on social media show magnets sticking to people’s arms after they received COVID-19 vaccines, proving the vaccines contain magnetic ingredients.
- MYTH: The American Red Cross will not accept blood donations from anyone who has received a COVID-19 vaccine because the vaccines wipe out the body’s natural antibodies.
- MYTH: Pfizer’s COVID-19 shot caused more deaths than the AstraZeneca vaccine.
- MYTH: SM-102, an ingredient in Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, is dangerous and has been listed as not being safe for human or veterinary use by a company that sells the ingredient.
- MYTH: Denmark national soccer team player Christian Eriksen received a COVID-19 vaccine days before he collapsed during a game against Finland.
- MYTH: Gibraltar saw a surge in deaths since its government began vaccinating the population with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, with at least 53 deaths caused by or linked to the COVID-19 vaccine in Gibraltar.
- MYTH: Four pilots who work for British Airways have died from the COVID-19 vaccine, and now the airline is in “crisis talks” with the British government about whether vaccinated pilots should be allowed to fly.
- MYTH: Airlines, particularly in Spain and Russia, have advised people who have received the COVID-19 vaccine to avoid flying because of a risk of developing blood clots.
- MYTH: Secret documents reveal that Moderna had developed a COVID-19 vaccine in December 2019, proving that the pandemic was planned.
- MYTH: COVID-19 vaccines contain luciferase, a substance named after the fallen angel Lucifer.
- MYTH: Spike proteins in mRNA COVID-19 vaccines are toxic to humans and can spread throughout the body, causing heart problems and neurological damage.
- MYTH: The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is 99 percent graphene oxide, according to a study published by the University of Almeria in Spain.
- MYTH: More people in the U.S. have died from COVID-19 vaccines than from the virus itself.
Last updated July 28, 2021