A private school in Florida is barring teachers who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 from coming into contact with students, arguing against all evidence that the educators pose a health risk.
Critics have held up the move by the Centner Academy as a particularly glaring example of the dangers of misinformation as the US works to get its population inoculated.
In an email to parents on Monday, co-founder Leila Centner wrote that vaccinated people "may be transmitting something from their bodies" that could harm others, in particular the "reproductive systems, fertility, and normal growth and development in women and children."
Centner acknowledged that the assertion, which is false, "is new and is yet to be researched."
The school urged faculty and staff who have not yet been vaccinated to wait until the end of the school year to do so, saying they should hold off "until there is further research available on whether this experimental drug is impacting unvaccinated individuals."
The claims, which have been circulating on social media, have previously been debunked by experts and fact-checkers.
"There's no evidence to suggest that vaccination will cause a person to shed the SARS-CoV-2 virus. In fact it's an impossibility, since all of the vaccines cause cells to produce only the spike protein, and no other components of the virus. So there's no way the virus can be produced by the vaccine," said Jamie Scott, professor emeritus and former research professor of molecular immunity at Simon Fraser University in Canada.
Dasantila Golemi-Kotra, associate professor of microbiology at York University, said that "no spike protein gets shed when we get vaccinated. This is skewed science."
US health regulators and the World Health Organization have said that the three vaccines being used in the US on an emergency basis are safe and effective.
The Centner Academy was founded in 2018, has about 300 students and charges some $30,000 a year in tuition for middle school, according to its website.
Centner founded the school with her husband David Centner, a former tech and electronic highway tolling entrepreneur.
The couple donated heavily to Donald Trump's re-election campaign and the Republican Party, while giving smaller amounts to local Democrats, said The New York Times, which first reported the school's email to parents.
Parents at the school were divided on the letter.
"We support the decision of the school 100 percent," one, who gave his name only as Fabio, told AFP.
"Because there is not too much information about this experimental vaccine, so we don't trust it," he explained.
Another parent, who gave her name as Lidia, told a local NBC affiliate: "They're very pro- 'my body, my choice,' and yet, it's the complete opposite of that is what she's actually telling these teachers. It's your body, but it's her choice."
- 'No scientific evidence' -
The United States has so far administered more than 232 million vaccine doses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), enough for more than half of all adults in the US to have gotten at least one shot.
New Covid-19 cases are falling, according to CDC numbers, and the agency said Tuesday that Americans vaccinated against the coronavirus no longer need to wear masks outdoors, as long as they are not at crowded events.
But vaccine hesitancy is becoming a greater barrier to the country's inoculation campaign.
Centner also claimed in the letter that "thousands" of women have reported their menstrual cycles have been affected by the vaccine, and that it has caused a 366 percent increase in miscarriages.
The only citation she gave for the figure was an article published on The Daily Expose, a website branded as "conspiracy-pseudoscience" by the mediabiasfactcheck.com.
AFP fact checkers have refuted the claim, and the CDC says there is no evidence for it.
Aileen Marty, a physician and infectious disease specialist at Florida International University, described the Centner email as "sad."
"(T)here's not one citation, there's not one physician or scientist whose name is spelled out in there. There's no references. There's nothing. There is no scientific evidence provided," Marty told the Miami Herald.