Fact Check: Video Does NOT Show Belgian Health Minister Getting Vaccinated Without a Needle

Fact Check

  • by: Maarten Schenk
Fact Check: Video Does NOT Show Belgian Health Minister Getting Vaccinated Without a Needle Test Run

Does a viral video show Bart Somers, the "Health Minister of Belgium," getting vaccinated with a syringe that is missing the needle? No, that's not true: Somers was never the health minister in Belgium, and the video was taken from a news broadcast showing a "dry run" of a vaccination center that was not open yet but was testing procedures with dummy syringes before actually being opened to the public later.

A copy of the video appeared in an Instagram post (archived here) published by iansmithfitness on April 5, 2021, with a caption that read:

Cameras flashing. Tons of theatrics. Nothing suspicious about a massive PR program to ensure compliance. A Belgian Health Minister doing "his part" to keep everyone safe.

One of the first comments on the video read:

Ya where's the needle even?! LOL

The politician in the video is not the health minister of Belgium. (That would be Frank Vandenbroucke at the time the video was shot.) The man in the video is named Bart Somers. While he is a Belgian politician (he is the mayor of Mechelen, interior minister in the Flanders regional government and the chairman of political party Open VLD), he has never been health minister of anything.

He took to Twitter to explain what happened:

"To be clear: during this dry-run no vaccine was administered and no jab was even given. If they had I would have shouted 'Auww' louder 😉". (translated from Dutch)

Ever since the footage was broadcast on the news in Belgium by public broadcaster VRT, it has been used as "proof" for various conspiracy theories. Fact-checkers from the Belgian magazine Knack investigated the video in early March 2021. Here is what they wrote (translated from Dutch):

News anchor Goedele Wachters talks about a 'theoretical exercise in Bilzen'. In vaccination-center De Kimpel a simulation took place to prepare a good workflow for the vaccination campaign as soon as enough vaccines will be available. (Newspapers) Het Nieuwsblad and Het Laatste Nieuws also reported on this exercise.

In all cases there is talk of '50 actors' and nobody is suggesting vaccines are actually being administered. Flemish Interior Minister Bart Somers (Open VLD) also participates in the exercise. Just like the other participants he also doesn't receive the vaccine. So it is not strange or remarkable that there is no visible needle or that the cap is still on the syringe.

The news broadcast video is no longer online but here is a report from VRT about the testing day at the vaccination center.

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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.


  Maarten Schenk

Lead Stories co-founder Maarten Schenk is our resident expert on fake news and hoax websites. He likes to go beyond just debunking trending fake news stories and is endlessly fascinated by the dazzling variety of psychological and technical tricks used by the people and networks who intentionally spread made-up things on the internet.  He can often be found at conferences and events about fake news, disinformation and fact checking when he is not in his office in Belgium monitoring and tracking the latest fake article to go viral.

Read more about or contact Maarten Schenk

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