Chelsea Clinton speaks after she accepts an award on March 23, 2017 in New York City ( AFP / ANGELA WEISS)

Website distorts Chelsea Clinton's vaccination comments

Copyright © AFP 2017-2023. All rights reserved.

Social media posts claim Chelsea Clinton has called for forced messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccination for American children. This is false; the former US president's daughter endorsed an effort to boost routine childhood immunization in 20 developing countries, an initiative that does not involve mandatory jabs or Covid-19 vaccines.

"Chelsea Clinton has declared that unvaccinated children in America must be forced to take the mRNA jab with or without parental consent," says a May 7, 2023 tweet with tens of thousands of interactions.

Similar posts circulated on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and elsewhere on Twitter.

Many share an article from a conservative website called the People's Voice, which says the daughter of Bill and Hillary Clinton spoke about a program that the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF and others -- including the Clinton Health Access Initiative -- launched April 24, 2023.

Screenshot taken May 11, 2023 of an article from The People's Voice

The posts build off false and misleading claims about the safety of mRNA Covid-19 vaccines. Researchers say the shots have saved lives and prevented millions of hospitalizations.

Claims that Chelsea Clinton called for forced mRNA vaccination are also false -- they misrepresent a global plan to help children get up-to-date on routine immunizations for diseases such as measles, polio and mumps.

"The Big Catch-up" is an effort to respond to a drop in immunization during the Covid-19 pandemic due to logistical issues and vaccine misinformation, especially in low-income countries. Health officials say that because of the decline, outbreaks of preventable diseases -- including measles, diphtheria, polio and yellow fever -- are becoming more prevalent and severe.

The initiative aims to focus first on 20 countries where three-quarters of children who missed vaccinations in 2021 live, according to a press release from UNICEF. The United States is not on the list.

"Participation in this immunization drive is decided by each country," a WHO spokesperson told AFP in a May 10 email. "There are no mandatory vaccinations associated with this effort. Some countries require vaccines for children to enroll in school."

Clinton's speech

The article from the People's Voice -- a rebrand of News Punch, a website that AFP and others have previously fact-checked for spreading misinformation -- cites as evidence Clinton's April 25 appearance at the Fortune Brainstorm Health conference.

However, she made no reference to forced vaccination or mRNA shots at the event. Instead, she endorsed the plan from the WHO and UNICEF to "catch kids up on their routine immunizations," adding that "no one should die of polio, or measles or pneumonia."

AFP reached out to the Clinton Foundation for additional comment, but no response was forthcoming.

AFP has fact-checked other false and misleading claims about vaccines here.