The claim: Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine shows up on Bluetooth devices
For Vermont, vaccination is the core reason for this shift, with 80% of its eligible population now partially vaccinated. California has reached similar vaccination rates, with 57% of all California residents – and greater than 72% of all adults – partially vaccinated.
But real-world evidence of vaccine effectiveness hasn't stopped online skeptics from questioning the shot's safety, particularly regarding what ingredients it contains.
"(Vaccine) connected to Bluetooth!!" claims a June 13 Instagram video.
The video, which is in Spanish, shows a man who purportedly received a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on May 21. A smartphone with its Bluetooth pairing mode enabled is brought close to his vaccinated arm. Under "Other devices," a device named "HBPC-J43" appears.
"There it is, HBPC-J43, that's with the Pfizer (vaccine)," says a man off-camera, referring to the supposed presence of an implanted microchip.
USA TODAY reached out to the Instagram user for comment.
Claims of COVID-19 shots containing microchips or other technologies aren't new. Even before the vaccine rollout, conspiracy theories went viral on social media and asserted Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates was behind a global scheme to secretly implant and track billions of people.
Fact check: COVID-19 vaccines aren't magnetic
But none of the vaccines contain anything remotely electronic that could connect to a Bluetooth device. And the device showing up on the smartphone in the video is actually a Bluetooth speaker.
Vaccines do not contain Bluetooth capable ingredients
USA TODAY has previously debunked claims that the COVID-19 vaccines contain microchips, that the AstraZeneca vaccine – which is not yet approved in the U.S. – shows up on Bluetooth devices and that the federal government can track vaccine recipients with radio-frequency identification technology.
"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."
Ingredient lists for the Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson's Janssen vaccines similarly reveal no evidence to support claims that any of these vaccines contain a microchip or any element that would make it detectable via Bluetooth, a technology that relies on radio waves to communicate between nearby devices.
Here's a breakdown of those ingredients.
Moderna and Pfizer's vaccines contain messenger RNA, or mRNA, a piece of genetic code that delivers instructions on how to make the coronavirus' spike protein, used by the virus to enter cells. The spike protein encoded in the mRNA is by itself harmless and doesn't cause disease. Its sole job is to get our bodies to make antibodies against it, which confers immunity against COVID-19.
Because our cells are covered in droplets of fats called lipids, the mRNA is also cocooned in a fatty shell that enables it to enter easily and also protects it from degrading too quickly before use.
Aside from lipids, Pfizer's vaccine contains salts that help keep the vaccine intact and close to the pH of the human body, thereby preventing it from injuring cells. It also contains the sugar sucrose, which prevents all the ingredients from sticking together when the vaccine is refrigerated.
Moderna's vaccine also contains sucrose and other stabilizers like acetic acid (the same chemical found in vinegar) that work together to make sure the vaccine stays in mint condition after it's produced, according to the Connecticut Department of Public Health.
Instead of mRNA, J&J's Janssen vaccine uses a harmless common cold virus to deliver the genetic sequence of the COVID-19 spike protein (known as a viral vector). This shot also contains stabilizers like sugars, salts and an alcohol called ethanol, which helps dissolve the shot's ingredients.
Video shows phone connecting to a Bluetooth speaker
Comments under the Instagram post have insinuated the device name "HBPC-J43" stands for a disease "encoded in the Bluetooth" that the vaccine recipient will get.
HBPC-J43 is actually a Bluetooth speaker sold in the South American country of Chile, as pointed out by Twitter user BinaryDope replying to another user who shared the video.
The mini-speakers are sold by Hilubas, a wholesale electronics retail store in the northern city of Iquique that launched in March 2015, according to their Facebook profile.
USA TODAY has reached out to Hilubas for comment.
Our rating: False
We rate the claim that Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine shows up on Bluetooth devices FALSE, based on our research. None of the COVID-19 vaccines contain any elements or technologies that would enable Bluetooth connectivity. The device name HBPC-J43 seen in the video is actually a type of Bluetooth speaker sold in Chile.
Our fact-check sources:
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, accessed June 15, COVID Data Tracker
Burlington Free Press, June 14, Vermont lifts remaining COVID restrictions as state hits vaccination goal. What to know.
State of Vermont, June 14, Transcript: Governor Phil Scott on Vermont's 90% Vaccination Milestone
Los Angeles Times, June 22, Tracking coronavirus vaccinations in California
USA TODAY, Dec. 17, 2020, Fact check: Syringes with RFID technology track vaccines, not recipients
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, June 17, Myths and Facts about COVID-19 Vaccines
U.S. Food and Drug Administration, March 26, Moderna COVID-19 EUA Fact Sheet for Recipients and Caregivers
U.S. Food and Drug Administration, May 10, Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine EUA Fact Sheet for Recipients and Caregivers
U.S. Food and Drug Administration, April 23, Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine EUA Fact Sheet for Recipients and Caregivers 04232021
Scientific American, Nov. 5, 2007, How does Bluetooth work?
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, March 4, Understanding mRNA COVID-19 Vaccines
MIT Technology Review, Dec. 9, 2020, What are the ingredients of Pfizer's covid-19 vaccine?
Connecticut Department of Public Health, accessed June 15, What Ingredients are in the COVID-19 Vaccine?
UC Health, May 20, A Comprehensive List of All COVID-19 Vaccine Ingredients
Hilubas, accessed June 15, HBPC.J43
BinaryDope, June 1, Twitter thread
Hilubas Facebook profile, accessed June 15
Contributing: Nayeli Lomeli, Chiara Vercellone
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: No, COVID-19 vaccines won't connect you to Bluetooth