Fact check: Posts share fabricated article on COVID-19 vaccinations

The claim: Images show an article questioning why unvaccinated didn't 'do more' to warn about COVID-19 vaccines

A Jan. 25 Instagram post (direct link, archive link) includes several screenshots purportedly from a health and wellness article about the COVID-19 vaccines.

“THEY KNEW: Why didn’t the unvaccinated do more to warn us?” reads the article's headline.

The post was liked more than 500 times in three days on Instagram. Other versions of the purported screenshot also circulated on Twitter and Instagram.

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Our rating: Altered

The images have been digitally fabricated. The news outlet where the article was purportedly published said it did not publish such a story or headline.

Images use elements of real article

The purported headline assumes the COVID-19 vaccines are dangerous. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization have repeatedly said the extensive studies and real-world use show the COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective.

The screenshots appear to be from an article published by The Conversation. The images bear the same formatting and style as pieces from that news outlet, though the fabricated article lists the date as "to be published June 6, 2023."

However, no such article appears on The Conversation's website, and the outlet said it never published an article with that headline.

The outlet's verified Twitter account shared a screenshot of the purported article in a Jan. 23 tweet with a caption that reads, "Below is a fake screenshot of one of our articles."

The tweet from The Conversation links to a genuine Jan. 6 article from the outlet that the altered screenshots appear to be based on. It's headlined, "COVID: unvaccinated people may be seen as ‘free riders’ and face discrimination."

Other iterations of the Instagram post list the author of the altered article as Alessandro Siani, associate head of the School of Biological Sciences at Portsmouth University in Britain.

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Siani says he did not write and would not write the article in the images.

“My research activity is on scientific misinformation and particularly vaccine hesitancy, and I've often taken staunchly pro-research and pro-vaccination positions, which explains why I've been targeted by anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theorists,” he told USA TODAY in an email.

The user sharing the image on Instagram did not offer any evidence it was authentic when contacted by USA TODAY. A Twitter user sharing the image with Siani's name on the fabricated article did not respond to a request for comment.

Reuters also debunked the claim.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Posts share fabricated article on COVID-19 vaccinations