Are people who received a COVID-19 vaccine "walking biological time bombs"? No, that's not true: There is no publicly available evidence the vaccines help create "superstrains and superbugs." Contrary to what the video post claims, the vaccines can actually help prevent the emergence of new variants, and early studies suggest the COVID-19 vaccines available at the time this was written provide at least some protection against new virus variants.
The claim appeared in a video post (archived here) published on Brighteon.com on March 28, 2021. The post was titled "Situation Update, Mar 26, 2021 - Vaccinated people are walking biological time bombs." Its narrator, who identifies himself as Mike Adams, says toward the start:
It's the vaccinated people that are the breeding grounds for superstrains and superbugs.
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The narrator continues:
If you are a vaccinated person, not only are you brainwashed and gullible and stupid, you are also a murderer and a threat to society. You are a walking biological weapons factory, and you should be ashamed of yourself.
He offers no proof for his extraordinary claims.
The narrator's argument rests on the assumption that vaccinations will result in more dangerous and deadly variants. There's no publicly available evidence that's true, and there's a good bit of evidence it's not, since variants arise in populations of un-vaccinated virus-susceptible people.
Lead Stories addressed the same claim in a previous fact-check, seen here. We quoted Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. During a White House briefing on February 1, 2021, he urged people to get vaccinated as soon as they are eligible -- not just to protect themselves but also to help prevent the emergence of variants. Fauci said:
Viruses cannot mutate if they don't replicate, and if you stop their replication by vaccinating widely and not giving the virus an open playing field to continue to respond to the pressures you put on it, you will not get mutations.
Lead Stories has cued the recording of Fauci - with context on either end - in the C-SPAN video clip embedded below:
We also quoted Dr. Otto Yang, a professor of medicine in the infectious diseases division at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles. In an email to Lead Stories, dated March 17, 2021, he wrote:
Viruses don't evolve to become more lethal; evolution favors becoming less lethal. If a more lethal variant occurs, that's through random bad luck, not selection, and is not beneficial to the virus (for which killing the host is killing its own survival).
Variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 are already circulating, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). They evolved in unvaccinated populations. For example, the U.K. variant was identified in the fall of 2020, while the U.K. didn't approve a vaccine until December 2020. Viruses change over time -- with or without a vaccine -- that's normal.
A February 2020 article in Nature Microbiology addressed the issue of virus evolution, arguing that "predicting how virulence might evolve is an extremely difficult and perhaps futile task." The article, which warned against "rampant speculation" read:
The pervasive claim that a virus will mutate to become more virulent during an outbreak is particularly illustrative of this phenomenon, even though this spectre of a 'super killer' virus is baseless. In reality, the evolution of virulence is a highly complex topic that has inspired extensive research on evolutionary theory and debate. Mutations can also make a virus either more or less virulent.
Although it's not yet entirely clear, early studies suggest that the current COVID-19 vaccines provide at least some protection against new virus variants. The CDC strongly recommends people get vaccinated, which it says is an "essential tool to protect people against COVID-19, including against new variants." The CDC reports on its website:
New variants of the virus that causes COVID-19 illness have emerged. Current data suggest that COVID-19 vaccines used in the United States should work against these variants. For this reason, COVID-19 vaccines are an essential tool to protect people against COVID-19, including against new variants. CDC recommends getting vaccinated as soon as vaccine is available to you.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has similarly said that existing vaccines should work, at least to some degree, against new virus variants. According to its website:
The COVID-19 vaccines that are currently in development or have been approved are expected to provide at least some protection against new virus variants because these vaccines elicit a broad immune response involving a range of antibodies and cells. Therefore, changes or mutations in the virus should not make vaccines completely ineffective.
Also, WHO has stressed that vaccines are not fixed, a possibility the video's narrator did not acknowledge. They can be updated as new variants emerge. WHO added:
In the event that any of these vaccines prove to be less effective against one or more variants, it will be possible to change the composition of the vaccines to protect against these variants.
NewsGuard, a company that uses trained journalist to rank the reliability of websites, describes brighteon.com as:
A video-sharing website allowing anyone to post content with minimal vetting that is rife with conspiracy theories and other false information, including about the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to NewsGuard the site does not maintain basic standards of accuracy and accountability. Read their full assessment here.