Fact Check: Pfizer's COVID-19 Vaccine Candidate Does NOT Contain Nanoparticles Never Used Before In Vaccines; Ingredients Are NOT Lethal

Fact Check

  • by: Eric Ferkenhoff
Fact Check: Pfizer's COVID-19 Vaccine Candidate Does NOT Contain Nanoparticles Never Used Before In Vaccines; Ingredients Are NOT Lethal No Basis

Is it true that Pfizer's vaccine candidate to battle COVID-19 is made and stored in such a way that scores of people could be severely sickened or even killed by its use? No, that is a conspiracy theory not supported by scientific studies. According to vaccine experts and literature, the use of PEG -- polyethylene glycol --- in Pfizer's potential vaccine is routine.

The claims can be found in an article (archived here) published by Distributed News on November 18, 2020, titled "The shocking reason why Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine requires storage at -70C ... because it contains experimental nanotech components that have NEVER been used in vaccines before." The story opened:

You're seeing the reports all over the news: Pfizer's new coronavirus vaccine requires storage at -70C (-94F), which is much colder than the North Pole. If it's not stored at this temperature, its ingredients begin to break down and it fails to work. Currently Pfizer is claiming, without evidence, that its vaccine is "90% effective." But this claim is little more than corporate propaganda designed to drive up stock prices through false projections. But why do these vaccines need to be kept at -70C in the first place? The answer, it turns out, is because they contain potentially hazardous ingredients that have never been used in vaccines before."

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The shocking reason why Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine requires storage at -70C ... because it contains experimental nanotech components that have NEVER been used in vaccines before

The shocking reason why Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine requires storage at -70C ... because it contains experimental nanotech components that have NEVER been used in vaccines before

Claims making the rounds that it is potentially lethal are "lies" and "conspiracies," said Dr. John Swartzberg, a vaccine specialist from the University of California at Berkeley.

The claims have run on dozens of sites, many of them anti-vaccination sites, as well as social media. Here is a tweet containing the claim:

Peer-reviewed professional scientists have not supported those claims, says Swartzberg, of Berkeley's School of Public Health's Division of Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology. Sent the article by Lead Stories and asked about the claims, he said, "It's an article full of lies and scare tactics."

The article appears to be referring to ethylene glycol, which is dangerous. According to healthychildren.org, on the question of whether vaccines contain antifreeze:

No. Antifreeze is typically made of ethylene glycol, which is unsafe. Confusion has arisen, because polyethylene glycol (a chemical used in antifreeze and personal care products like skin creams and toothpaste) is used in vaccines and is safe. It is used to inactivate the influenza virus in some influenza vaccines. It is also used to purify other vaccines."

There are four main claims in the Distributed News article, some of which is drawn from anti-vaccination champion Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.'s Children's Health Defense:

- Nanotech components are used to develop the vaccine candidate, and that they've never been used in vaccines before;

- Lipid nanoparticles cause hyperinflammatory responses in the body, leading to severe reactions, hospitalization and potentially death;

- The UK government is prepared for a vaccine death wave;

- Coronavirus vaccine-caused deaths will be categorized as COVID-19 deaths to keep the scam going.

Of the claims combined, Swartzberg said:
We've seen [these claims] come up over and over during the years...But it seems to come back every time something is coming, and the conspiracy theories are going...That's why I see it as so important to get what I know out there to debunk this kind of information."
Lead Stories reached out to Pfizer for comment and will update this report, as appropriate, when we get a response from the company.

On the first claim -- that the nanotech components (PEG) have never been used in vaccines -- Swartzberg said: "I don't know what they're talking about. PEG has been used in vaccines before."

On the second claim -- that severe reactions, even death, would result from the vaccine due to PEG -- Swartzberg said: "There is no scientific basis for making this claim...There's no evidence that these particles in the vaccine can do any of those things."

As for the third -- that the UK is preparing for a vaccine death wave -- Swartzberg said: "That's a conspiracy theory."

He had the same answer -- "conspiracy theory" -- for the last claim: that that vaccination deaths would be reported as COVID-19 deaths "to keep the scam going."

The Distributed News article's title specifies Pfizer, which has announced that its candidate was roughly 95% effective against the novel coronavirus in trials recently concluded. But the article also mentions Moderna, which also announced its vaccine has scored about 95% effective.

The author of the article, Mike Adams, who writes as HEALTHRANGER, included this audio to support what Swartzberg said are baseless claims:

Last, Swartzberg added:

Sure, if we drank a whole bottle of it [PEG], we could hurt ourselves or die. But there's a very small amount of this ingredient in vaccines. And it causes no harm, and there is evidence that it actually helps the vaccines work."

NewsGuard, a company that uses trained journalist to rank the reliability of websites, describes DistributedNews.com as:

A network of sites promoting both medical and non-medical conspiracy theories, particularly the false claim that vaccines are linked to autism.

According to NewsGuard the site does not maintain basic standards of accuracy and accountability. Read their full assessment here.

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Lead Stories is working with the CoronaVirusFacts/DatosCoronaVirus Alliance, a coalition of more than 100 fact-checkers who are fighting misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about the alliance here.


  Eric Ferkenhoff

Eric Ferkenhoff has been a reporter, editor and professor for 27 years, working chiefly out of the Midwest and now the South. Focusing on the criminal and juvenile justice systems, education and politics, Ferkenhoff has won several journalistic and academic awards and helped start a fact-checking project at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he continues to teach advanced reporting. Ferkenhoff also writes and edits for the juvenile justice site JJIE.org.

 

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