Educational staff receive the Covid-19 vaccine in Dayton, Ohio, on February 10, 2021 (AFP / Megan Jelinger)

Anti-vaxxer's testimony to lawmakers recites Covid-19 misinformation

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Prominent anti-vaccine advocate Dr Sherri Tenpenny, appeared before the Ohio legislature on June 8, 2021 testifying in support of a state bill prohibiting vaccination requirements. During her statement she made several inaccurate claims and shared conspiracy theories that have been disproven by medical professionals.

Her comments quickly spread online.

“Dr. Sherri Tenpenny, physician addresses the issue of magnetism after vaccinations at the Ohio House Hearing,” reads a June 12, 2021 Instagram post.

Screenshot of an Instagram post taken June 14, 2021

Several other posts on Instagram share segments of the video and the entire 55-minute testimony can be found on YouTube.

Cleveland osteopathic physician Tenpenny is a frequent spreader of coronavirus misinformation whose claims AFP previously debunked.

She was invited by Ohio lawmakers to testify in favor of a bill that would prohibit schools, employers and health departments from requiring Covid-19 vaccines along with other mandatory vaccinations or vaccination status disclosure.

A 2021 study from the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) found that Tenpenny was among a dozen people responsible for 65 percent of anti-vaccine content on Facebook and Twitter. She is also named in a separate list of “Pandemic Profiteers” in a later CCDH report.

Despite her claims being discredited by many reputable medical professionals, Tenpenny stood in defense of the bill, giving a testimony that referred to several disproven conspiracy theories, including false claims that people who have been vaccinated for Covid-19 are magnetized, and speculations about Covid-19 shots and 5G cell towers.

AFP breaks down some of the claims she made in her Ohio testimony:

“I’m sure you’ve seen the pictures all over the internet, of people who’ve had these shots and now they’re magnetized, and put a key on their forehead it sticks. They can put spoons and forks all over them and they can stick,” said Tenpenny.

This conspiracy that vaccines are causing people to become magnetized has been widely debunked.

“No. Getting a Covid-19 vaccine cannot cause your arm to be magnetized. This is a hoax, plain and simple,” Dr Stephen Schrantz, an infectious diseases specialist at the University of Chicago Medicine previously told AFP in May 2021.

This was echoed by several other doctors and health authorities in both the US and Canada, whose Covid-19 vaccine fact sheets show that none of the available Covid-19 vaccinations (Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson or AstraZeneca) list any metal-based ingredients.

Dr Thomas Hope, vaccine researcher and professor of cell and developmental biology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine said in May 2021: “This is impossible. There’s nothing there that a magnet can interact with, it’s protein and lipids, salts, water and chemicals that maintain the pH.

Similar conspiracies have sprouted up across the globe.

“There’s been people who’ve long suspected that there was some sort of an interface, yet to be defined, in the interface between what’s being injected in the shots and all of the 5G towers,” said Tenpenny, adding that these theories are “not proven yet.”

However, experts have also rejected claims tying Covid-19 vaccines to 5G cell towers and microchip implants.

Mischa Dohler, Chair Professor of Wireless Communications at King’s College London, said in June 2020 that a microchip under the skin could not be used to operate a 5G mobile phone.

“I’m not saying this will never be possible but, currently, this is scientific rubbish,” he told AFP in a fact check.

Luyun Jiang, technology analyst at IDTechEx, a market research company, said in June 2020 that this type of technology can only deal with “very limited data” and cannot be used to make and receive phone calls.

Tenpenny also repeated other false claims she had made in the past, referencing the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), run by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Food and Drug Administration. VAERS has been the subject of recurrent online misinformation. Her claims about the death tolls caused by the Covid-19 vaccine have been debunked.

Covid-19 vaccine skeptics have been exploiting official data to undermine confidence in the shots, misrepresenting statistics from the VAERS database as evidence that vaccinations are routinely killing Americans.

In the US, more than 310 million Covid-19 shots have been administered and although the rate of new infections is declining, misinformation about vaccines continues to spread.