A US study found those vaccinated against Covid-19 can transmit antibodies through the air, inspiring claims on social media that the research is proof of harmful vaccine “shedding.” But the paper’s lead author told AFP the effect likely benefits those who have not yet received the approved shots, which health authorities say cannot cause the release of viral particles.
“BREAKING: A new study from the University of Colorado confirms that the Covid vaccinated have been transmitting dangerous antibodies generated by the mRNA vaccine through aerosols, also known as vaccine shedding,” says Patrick Webb in a July 30, 2023 post on Twitter, which is being rebranded as “X.”
Similar claims have spread in articles and on Facebook.
“New Study from University of Colorado says we have ALL most likely been vaccinated through Shedding,” says an August 3 post.
The posts are the latest to falsely claim those vaccinated against Covid-19 pose a danger to unvaccinated people, a notion that AFP has repeatedly debunked. They reference a study published in the May 2023 issue of the journal ImmunoHorizons (archived here).
The paper found antibodies in the nose and mouth of individuals vaccinated against Covid-19 can spread the same way the virus itself does: through respiratory droplets.
But Ross Kedl, the study’s lead author, told AFP that the finding is unrelated to “shedding,” which describes the transmission of viral particles following vaccination with a live but weakened pathogen.
Kedl said August 15 he was surprised to learn the paper is “being manipulated for something so far off base.” In reality, the study found spreading antibodies “would prove useful to the recipient host” — especially in a pandemic when children, for example, are not initially eligible for vaccination.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says on its website (archived here) that vaccine shedding “is the release or discharge of any of the vaccine components in or outside of the body and can only occur when a vaccine contains a live weakened version of the virus.”
This is not the case for the messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) Covid-19 shots approved in Canada and the United States.
The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna shots are the first to use mRNA technology to inoculate recipients. The vaccines introduce a “blueprint” for making the virus’s spike protein, which the body can then recognize and fight off if infected.
“Viral shedding is theoretically possible only for vaccines that contain a weakened live virus, though it is extremely rare for this to infect someone else with that virus,” Doctors Manitoba says on its website (archived here). “Covid-19 vaccines do not contain any live virus, and thus the vaccine cannot result in anything being shed that could infect or harm others.”
Pfizer agreed, telling AFP on August 15 that its vaccine “cannot be inhaled via shedding and can only enter the human body through an administered dose.”
The Epoch Times shared the same study on social media, saying the research shows people are getting vaccinated against their will.
The Epoch Times, a website backed by the Falun Gong Chinese spiritual movement, has previously spread misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic. Its video featuring Balmakov has spread in Facebook posts in Canada, the United States and Australia, as well as on Instagram and X.
Kedl, a professor of immunology at the University of Colorado Anschutz School of Medicine, said the posts employ a more “subtle manipulation” by making it seem as if spreading antibodies to other people is “insidious.”
“Everybody regardless of Covid vaccine status has antibodies in their nose and mouth,” he said. “So antibodies (in) your nose and mouth is a normal thing to have.”
AFP reached out to Balmakov for comment, but a response was not forthcoming.
“The known risks of Covid-19 illness (including complications like myocarditis/pericarditis) outweigh the potential harms of having an adverse reaction following mRNA vaccination,” Health Canada says on its website (archived here).
More of AFP’s reporting on vaccine misinformation is available here.