Common Covid myths and misinformation debunked - from infertility to vaccine scams

Common Covid myths and misinformation debunked - from infertility to vaccine scams (Photo: Shutterstock)

Nearly a year into the pandemic, a host of misinformation about coronavirus continues to be circulated online, with social media posts, images and videos continuing to spread myths about the virus.

Here are some of the latest myths and pieces of misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic debunked.

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Vitamin and mineral supplements cannot cure Covid-19

A number of posts have appeared on social media since late last year, featuring claims that vitamin and mineral supplements can cure Covid-19.

Through its Mythbusters service, the World Health Organisation (WHO) put out a fact check on this claim.

It said: “Micronutrients, such as vitamins D and C and zinc, are critical for a well-functioning immune system and play a vital role in promoting health and nutritional well-being. There is currently no guidance on the use of micronutrient supplements as a treatment of Covid-19.”

Some of the false claims and misinformation around vitamin supplements arrived in October 2020 when numerous studies into their effects were revealed.

However, none have resulted in a concrete claim that vitamin and mineral supplements can cure Covid-19. It is true that vitamins and minerals are great for boosting your immune system, allowing you to be healthy and combat the virus.

Watch out for Covid-19 scam emails

There has been a wave of scam Covid-19 vaccination emails making their way into email inboxes.

A fraudulent email posing as an official NHS invitation to be vaccinated will include a link to a website where recipients will be asked to “register” for the vaccine. The email also asks for bank details, either to verify your identity or to make a payment.

This is a fake website and email - you should not click the link. The legitimate vaccine email requires no such registration.

The NHS has issued a warning over the fake emails on Twitter saying: “The Covid-19 vaccine is free of charge on the NHS.

“The NHS would never ask for: your bank account or card details, your pin or banking password, Copies of personal documents to prove your identity, such as your passport, driving licence, bills or pay slips.”

You can find out more about the Covid vaccine email scam here.

Covid vaccine does not cause infertility

Another rumour circulated online centres on an alleged connection between the Covid-19 vaccination and infertility in women. There were claims that some women receiving the vaccine then became infertile as a result.

Dr Katherine O’Brien from the WHO put this myth to bed. She said: “The vaccines we give cannot cause infertility. This is a rumour that has gone around about many different vaccines, and there is no truth to the rumour.

“There is no vaccine that causes infertility.”

Covid vaccines do not change your DNA

One of the most popular rumours that has appeared online claims that mRNA vaccines alter a person's DNA.

Sara Riordan, President of the National Society of Genetic Counselors, believes these myths grow from concerns that genetic material from the vaccine will mix with their own genetic material.

An mRNA vaccine has no ability to change someone’s DNA.

Dr Katherine O’Brien from the WHO said: “We have two vaccines now that are referred to as mRNA vaccines. There is no way that mRNA can turn into DNA, and there is no way mRNA can change the DNA of our human cells.

“mRNA is the instructions to the body to make a protein. Most vaccines are made by actually giving a protein, or small component of the germ that we are trying to vaccinate. This new approach, where instead of giving our body that tiny little part, instead we give the instructions to our own bodies to make that tiny little part, and the natural immune system responds to it.”

Ms Riordan added: “Any mRNA vaccine has the same purpose, to teach and train your body to make an immune response toward a particular pathogen, so if the pathogen gets into your body, your immune system can attack it.”

Wearing a face mask will not give you carbon monoxide poisoning

After mask enforcement rules came into place around the world, several posts appeared online claiming that wearing a mask will result in ‘hypercapnia’, also known as carbon monoxide poisoning. This is not true.

Carbon dioxide molecules are too small to be controlled by the majority of mask material, ranging from medically produced masks to home made cloth ones.

A good example of this in action is surgeons wearing medical masks for long periods of time, with no ill effects on their carbon dioxide levels.

How to avoid misinformation

There are several ways to avoid misinformation regarding the coronavirus pandemic online:

  • Before clicking on an article or image, check whether this is from a credible and reliable source of information
  • Before sharing the article, pause, and do some research of your own, if you are unsure on any aspects of the information
  • Add a healthy dose of scepticism to your reading. Living in the age of misinformation online, it is important to ask questions of what you're reading, and not just follow sources for the sake of doing so