A syringe is pictured on an illustration of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus (AFP / Joel Saget)

Flu shots do not contain coronaviruses

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A claim popularized by discredited researcher Judy Mikovits in the viral “Plandemic” video -- that influenza vaccines contain coronaviruses -- has spread online. But experts say it is false, and coronaviruses are not among the ingredients approved for use in US flu vaccines.

“I agree entirely with Judy… if they use a tissue to make the influenza vaccine, and that tissue comes from a dog or from a monkey, they intrinsically have coronaviruses,” Dublin professor Dolores Cahill says in a YouTube video posted in May 2020.

Screenshot of a YouTube video containing false information, taken on July 9, 2020

Cahill has been asked to resign from a leading European Union scientific committee over her online claims about the COVID-19 pandemic. A European Commission spokesperson told The Irish Times that Cahill’s expressed views were “incompatible” with the scientific foundations of the committee.

The claim about coronaviruses in flu vaccines also appears on Facebook here

Mikovits made the claim during a video interview that circulated widely online, and which contained a number of false or misleading claims about the novel coronavirus.

“Coronaviruses are in every animal, so if you’ve ever had a flu vaccine, you were injected with coronaviruses,” she said in the video, titled “Plandemic.”

Mikovits gained widespread attention in 2009 with a seemingly break-through study, but the paper was later retracted when the findings could not be replicated. Researchers theorized that the original findings were likely due to laboratory contamination

Her fall from grace continued when she was briefly jailed on charges of theft from the laboratory that performed the ill-fated study. 

There are seven known human coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, which has killed more than 555,000 people worldwide.

But the claim that flu vaccines contain them is false. 

While it is true that animals have coronaviruses, “it has no relationship to vaccines,” Dr. Jacco Boon, an infectious disease professor at Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis, said in an email.

Coronavirus expert Dr. Julian Leibowitz of Texas A&M College of Medicine explained in an email: “Although coronaviruses do infect many species, they do generally not persist long term in the infected animal. 

“The flu vaccine is commonly prepared from influenza virus grown in eggs laid by virus-free chickens, and these eggs are sterile prior to their being infected with influenza virus for vaccine preparation,” he said.

If the claim was true, people vaccinated for the flu would likely “have some level of immunity to coronavirus infections, and they do not,” Leibowitz added.

Information about approved flu vaccines for the US 2019-2020 flu season is available on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website here and here, and information about common flu shot ingredients are available on the Food and Drug Administration’s website here.

Coronaviruses are not listed as an ingredient in any of these resources.

AFP Fact Check has addressed previous claims about flu vaccines here, here and here, and more than 550 claims about the novel coronavirus, available here.