A general view shows patients being vaccinated with the Pfizer/BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre at the Helix on Dublin City University's campus in Dublin on March 20, 2021. ( AFP / Paul Faith)

Fake poster from Irish health agency spreads false claims about Covid-19 vaccine side effects

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An image has been shared repeatedly in social media posts around the world that purports to show a poster from an Irish health agency listing "vaccine side effects" that include "sudden death". The image is a hoax; the Irish health agency says it did not issue the poster.

A photo of the poster titled "Coronavirus Covid-19 Alert" was shared on Facebook here on October 26, 2021.

The poster reads: “Vaccination Recipients

"To all who have come forward to receive their Covid-19 vaccinations, thank you for playing your part in keeping our community safe. Rare side effects have come to our attention.

"Vaccine side effects include
> Headaches
> Menstrual irregularities
> Bell’s palsy
> Blood clots
> Heart Attacks and Strokes
> Sudden death

“Please report any side effects to
Health Products Regulatory Authority - www.hpra.ie and consult your GP.”

At the bottom right corner, there is the Irish government's logo, along with Irish words "Muintir na hEireann" and the English translation: "People of Ireland".

The post's caption states: "THIS NEEDS TO BE EVERYWHERE!!"

Screenshot of the misleading Facebook post taken on October 28, 2021

The same picture can be found on Instagram, Twitter, Reddit and other websites like here.

The picture was also shared on Facebook in various languages such as Malaysian, Arabic, Portuguese and Thai.

Ireland offers four Covid-19 vaccines to its population: two mRNA vaccines (Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna) and two viral vector vaccines (AstraZeneca and Janssen).

As of October 28, 2021, the country has administered more than seven million doses of Covid-19 vaccines.

However, the poster circulating online is a hoax.

"Muintir na hEireann" is an Irish expression often used by politicians and government officials to address or to refer to the people of Ireland, for example here and here.

The official name of the Irish government is "Government of Ireland" or in Irish "Rialtas na hEireann".

Ireland’s Health Product Regulatory Authority (HPRA) regulates medicines and devices for both humans and animals.

Siobhan Molloy, an HRPA spokesperson, told AFP on October 28, 2021, that it did not publish the purported posters.

"The HPRA does not produce Covid-19 vaccination posters. Any Covid-19 vaccination posters circulating – whether in print or via social media – that are portrayed as being from the HPRA are likely to be fabricated and to contain false or misleading information," Molloy said.

She added that the Health Service Executive (HSE) publishes the official Irish Covid-19-related information, including posters and resources.

Below is an example of an official poster issued by HSE:

Mild side effects

"Whilst not experienced by everyone, all vaccines have some side effects, the vast majority of which are mild to moderate in nature," Molloy said.

"Those vaccinated are also much less likely to get seriously ill or need to go to hospital in the event they do get Covid-19."

HPRA publishes product information on the vaccines, as well as vaccine safety updates.

Its latest safety update, published on October 7, 2021, states that up to September 28, there were "a total of 15,424 reports of suspected side effects", of which "90 reports have been received describing an individual who was known to have been vaccinated and subsequently passed away" in "patients aged over 75 and include fatalities often seen in the general population, such as those due to natural causes, progression of underlying disease".

It also says: "Reports describing a death are carefully reviewed. However, it can be expected that fatalities due to progression of underlying disease or natural causes will continue to occur, including following vaccination. This does not mean that the vaccine caused the deaths."

Covid-19 vaccines are safe, and serious side effects of Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Janssen vaccines are rare, according to HSE.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the UK National Health Service (NHS) and the World Health Organization (WHO) also make the same conclusion.