Covid-19 misinformation: The five images that marked 2021

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  • Kamala Harris
    Kamala Harris
    49th and current Vice President of the United States

Fake vaccines experiments, phantom syringes ... As in 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic has generated a host of false information this year. Doubts about the vaccines and the persistence of the virus have given rise to new theories shared widely on social media. A few days before the end of the year, we take a look back at some of the main Covid-19 rumours we debunked in 2021.

Kamala Harris wasn’t really vaccinated?

In January, a video claimed to prove that the new US Vice President Kamala Harris had never been vaccinated. Captions shared alongside the video of her vaccination said that the syringe she was given didn't even have a needle on it.

But actually, these posts played on poor quality images to trick viewers. Thanks to a reverse image search (click here to find out how), it is possible to find a better quality version of the video. The verdict: the syringe did contain a needle and Kamala Harris was indeed vaccinated on December 29, 2020. Kamala Harris also received a third dose of the vaccine at the White House on October 30, again in front of the cameras.

>> Read on The Observers: Was there really 'no needle' when Kamala Harris got vaccinated for Covid-19? Look again…

What’s really behind the ‘magnet challenge’?

Beyond fake injections, people have also questioned the composition of vaccines. Last May, our "Truth or Fake" programme looked at a trend spreading on TikTok in North America: the "magnet challenge". The principle: Internet users filmed magnets sticking to their arms, claiming that the Covid vaccine contained microchips that made your arm magnetic.

To verify this rumour, we tried out the magnet challenge ourselves and contacted Julien Bobroff, a physicist specialising in magnetism. The conclusion: microchips are not even magnetic, and above all, they are far too large to pass through a vaccine syringe.

Graphene, secret ingredient in the vaccine?

In August, several conspiracy accounts posted videos on TikTok, Facebook and Twitter purporting to demonstrate the presence of a "toxic" substance called graphene in Covid vaccines. These impressive images showed a material reassembling itself in a Petri dish.

Thanks to reverse image searches, our team was able to find the origin of these videos. They are in fact science experiments filmed well before the start of the pandemic and therefore have no connection with the vaccine. Above all, they don't show graphene, but rather other materials such as iron oxide.

>> Read on The Observers: Covid-19 vaccine: Warning, these videos don’t show 'toxic' 'graphene'

French police join in on protests against health restrictions?

Around the world, groups of people have mobilised in protest against vaccines or health restrictions imposed by governments to control the spread of Covid-19. One video, circulated widely with captions in several languages, claimed to show the French police actually joining in on one of these protests.

A 22-second-long video shows French gendarmes marching ahead of a group of protesters, some of whom are wearing the Yellow Vests that have become a symbol of French protests in recent years.

The video was indeed taken in France at a protest against vaccine passes on July 17, but police weren’t joining protesters. The short clip was taken from a much longer video of the protest, and a representative from the gendarmes association told us that it showed officers managing the protest correctly in the way they are trained.

>> Read on The Observers: Did French police join in the protests against Covid-19 restrictions?

Camps for the unvaccinated in Australia?

A video alleging to show buildings constructed in Australia to "hold the unvaccinated" made the rounds on social media in early November, garnering lots of attention and horrified comments. The caption and the sound on the video refer to "quarantine facilities" meant to lock up people who choose not to get the Covid-19 jab.

However, the building shown in this video, which has been viewed more than 160,000 times, has nothing to do with the pandemic – it's an "accommodation centre" for immigrants and was built long before Covid-19 spread around the world.

>> Read on The Observers: Australia: No, these photos don't show a prison for unvaccinated people

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