Fact check: COVID-19 vaccines aren't magnetic

·6 min read

The claim: Magnetism was added to COVID-19 vaccines to push mRNA through the body

Side effects from the coronavirus vaccines can include fatigue, headache, fever, and –according to some anti-vaccine advocates – magnetism.

On June 9, Dr. Sherri Tenpenny, author of "Saying No to Vaccines," testified before Ohio lawmakers on a bill that would curtail COVID-19 vaccine requirements in the state. Tenpenny said the coronavirus spike protein that results from vaccination has "a metal attached to it."

"I'm sure you've seen the pictures all over the internet of people who have had these shots and now they're magnetized," Tenpenny, a physician based in suburban Cleveland, said during the House Health Committee hearing. "You can put a key on their forehead, it sticks. You can put spoons and forks all over and they can stick because now we think there is a metal piece to that."

Another health care provider who testified during the hearing, Joanna Overholt, tried to prove that claim during the hearing.

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"Explain to me why the key sticks to me. It sticks to my neck too," Overholt said after failing to get a key to stick to her neck

The claim that the coronavirus vaccines are magnetic has circulated online for more than a month, according to First Draft, a nonprofit that tracks online misinformation. One recent version of the claim, a video published June 7 on Rumble, says magnetism was "intentionally added to 'vaccine' to force mRNA through entire body."

"It's a process called magnetofection," Jane Ruby, a self-described "new right political pundit," said during the video. "They are using magnetic fields through different chemicals to actually concentrate the RNA, the mRNA, into people's cells."

The segment was published by the conservative Stew Peters Show, part of Red Voice Media. The video has more than 186,000 views on Rumble and more than 3,900 shares on Facebook, according to CrowdTangle, a social media insights tool.

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But the coronavirus vaccines are not magnetic, as USA TODAY and other independent fact-checking organizations have pointed out. And they don't rely in any way on "magnetofection."

All three coronavirus vaccines approved for emergency use in the United States are free from metals. And even if they did have metallic ingredients, public health officials say the vaccines wouldn't cause a magnetic reaction.

USA TODAY reached out to Ruby and Tenpenny for comment.

Vaccine ingredients aren't magnetic

The lists of ingredients for all three coronavirus vaccines approved for emergency use are publicly available online. None of them include magnetic substances.

"Receiving a COVID-19 vaccine will not make you magnetic, including at the site of vaccination which is usually your arm," the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says on its website. "All COVID-19 vaccines are free from metals such as iron, nickel, cobalt, lithium, and rare earth alloys, as well as any manufactured products such as microelectronics, electrodes, carbon nanotubes, and nanowire semiconductors."

The primary ingredient in coronavirus vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna is messenger RNA (mRNA). Those molecules contain genetic information that teaches cells how to make the spike protein on the surface of the coronavirus, eliciting an immune response.

The remaining ingredients in the Pfizer vaccine include lipids (for protecting the mRNA and allowing it to slide into cells), salts (for balancing acidity in the body) and sugar (for helping the molecules maintain their shape). Moderna's vaccine also has those ingredients, as well as acids and acid stabilizers.

Johnson & Johnson's coronavirus vaccine is a little different.

Instead of mRNA, the shot uses a modified, harmless version of the common cold to carry the gene sequence for the spike protein. Once inside a cell, the virus body disintegrates and the genetic material travels to the nucleus, where it's transcribed into mRNA. Other ingredients in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine include acids, salts, sugars and ethanol.

None of those compounds is magnetic. And even if they were, public health officials say they wouldn't cause metal objects to stick to the body.

"The typical dose for a COVID-19 vaccine is less than a milliliter, which is not enough to allow magnets to be attracted to your vaccination site even if the vaccine was filled with a magnetic metal," the CDC says.

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In response to USA TODAY's request for comment, Peters published a video in which he cites several studies and articles that don't mention the coronavirus.

Peters has also asserted that coronavirus vaccines are part of "the most calculated mass murder ever orchestrated against global citizens in the history of the world." (They're not.)

Our rating: False

The claim that magnetism was added to COVID-19 vaccines to push mRNA through the body is FALSE, based on our research. None of the three coronavirus vaccines approved in the U.S. contains metals, and if they did, public health officials say they wouldn't cause magnetic reactions.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: COVID-19 vaccines aren't magnetic

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