Chinese social media users spread false claim about ‘US Supreme Court ruling on Covid vaccines’

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Chinese social media users shared a screenshot of a year-long article by a US conspiracy site falsely claiming the Supreme Court ruled “the Covid pathogen is not a vaccine and is unsafe” and canceled Universal-Vax. As of March 13, 2023, AFP has found no similar or related cases on the US Supreme Court record. The United States has not made the Covid-19 vaccination mandatory for all people at the federal level. The Covid-19 vaccines available in the US contain no live virus and are safe, experts say.

“Breaking: US Supreme Court has ruled Covid agents are not vaccines, are unsafe and must be avoided at all costs – Supreme Court has nullified universal vaccine!” reads a May 17 Twitter post in simplified Chinese February 2023.

“Big Pharma and Anthony Fauci have lost a lawsuit brought by Robert F. Kennedy and a group of scientists!” The tweet continues, referring to former director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Fauci and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an environmental advocate with an anti-vaccination stance.

The post includes a screenshot of an English language article with the same claim and Chinese text at the bottom of the image.

Screenshot of the incorrect post taken on March 8, 2023.

AFP has previously refuted the claim that “Fauci and Big Pharma lost a lawsuit” Kennedy made here in April 2021.

The lawsuit stems from a freedom of information lawsuit filed by the Anti-Vaccine Informed Consent Action Network against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in a district court in 2018, demanding that it release detailed reports of vaccine side effects. However, the department found no such reports.

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Similar claims resurfaced in February 2023 and were shared hundreds of times in Chinese-language posts on multiple social media platforms, including Twitter, Facebook, Gettr, and Chinese social media site Weibo.

The posts point to a misleading article by conspiracy site American Media Group, which users re-shared in English.

The article provides no sources for its claims, which include claims that the mRNA vaccines “reprogram normal RNA/DNA.”

Scientists have largely dismissed the unsubstantiated claim that mRNA vaccines can alter human DNA, which AFP has refuted here and here.

Covid-19 vaccinations

The false posts and American Media Group article conflates the Covid-19 vaccine with a “pathogen” and says it is actually “a microbe or virus that has been killed or attenuated”.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has refuted such claims on its website.

“None of the approved Covid-19 vaccines in the United States contain the live virus that causes Covid-19,” the website said.

The US has approved two mRNA vaccines for use in the country — from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna — and the CDC has clarified that these vaccines “work differently than other types of vaccines, but still trigger an immune response in your body.”

The Federal Health Agency states that mRNA vaccines are new, but have been researched and developed for decades.

“The mRNA vaccines do not contain live virus. Instead, they work by teaching our cells to make a harmless piece of a ‘spike protein’ found on the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19.

“After the cells have made the piece of protein, they display it on their surface. Our immune system then realizes it doesn’t belong there and responds to get rid of it – a natural infection,” the CDC explains.

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Fake lawsuit

The claim that the US Supreme Court “repealed universal vaccination” is also false.

As of March 13, 2023, AFP found no pending or adjudicated cases similar to or related to the complaint in the Supreme Court filing system.

No such judgment appears on the Supreme Court’s website, which lists all decisions under “Court Opinions” for cases under review and under “Court Orders” for summary judgments.

The United States has not made the Covid-19 vaccination mandatory for all people at the federal level. As of March 13, 2023, the federal government has mandated the Covid-19 vaccination only for federal employees and contractors, in addition to those employed by healthcare providers who receive federal funding.

The Biden administration has said it has no intention of enforcing requirements for federal employees or contractors who have had legal challenges.

Every state has the legal and constitutional authority to require its citizens to be vaccinated against infectious diseases. However, some states have faced increasing litigation over mandates in recent years.

All 50 states have laws requiring children to be vaccinated “against certain communicable diseases” to attend both public and private schools, which can be viewed here on the CDC website.

There are also certain mandatory immunizations for healthcare workers and for those applying for permanent residency in the United States.

“CDC only makes recommendations for vaccine use, while school-entry immunization requirements are determined by state or local jurisdictions,” CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund told AFP in an October 2022 email.

However, all states allow medical exceptions — such as allergy to a vaccine — and 44 states and Washington DC allow exceptions for religious or philosophical purposes, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

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AFP has debunked a wave of misinformation about Covid-19 vaccines here.