Phlebotomist Ebonie Bennett displays a vial of blood drawn during Covid-19 antibody testing on February 17, 2021 in Pico Rivera, California (AFP / Frederic J Brown)

Online posts falsely claim Covid-19 shots damage blood cells

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Social media posts featuring four microscope slides supposedly showing blood cells before and after Covid-19 vaccination claim that immunization permanently alters human blood. This is false; experts told AFP that the images show incorrectly prepared red blood cell samples unrelated to Covid-19 inoculation, and said that the posts are unscientific.

“THIS EXPERIMENTAL VACCINATION IS A CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY!!!” warns one Facebook post shared since May 1, 2021. Below the caption, four photos show what the author claims are microscope slides of blood cells. 

The cells are perfectly round in the first image, oval in the second, floating alongside a multitude of little white dots in the third, and covered in goosebumps in the fourth.

According to the post, the first image featuring round cells shows “completely healthy cells before the vax,” while the third reflects “the foreign nano particles that show up in your blood!”

“Your body can NEVER detox from it and eventually those particles will go into every cell of your body,” concludes the author, who claims to have learned this information from “a friend who is a Nutrition Microscopist.”

It is the latest of numerous false and misleading claims about Covid-19 shots.

Screenshot of a Facebook post taken on June 28, 2021

The post itself was shared 3,300 times, but inspired others, such as this nearly identical translation in a French web article, or this Spanish message board post. 

However, the posts are false. They do not show blood cells before and after a Covid-19 vaccine, and misidentify the healthy blood cells in the images.

The pictures show red blood cell wet preparations (or wet prep), a sampling method that consists of drawing blood and then smearing a drop of it on a glass slide, before adding another thin glass cover on top, according to Dan Milner, chief medical officer at the American Society for Clinical Pathology.

A healthy red blood cell is not perfectly round, as the post suggests, but rather oval, in the shape of an oval donut, or biconcave disk, and with a clear center, studies show. The second image in the posts, not the first, is in fact the one showing healthy blood cells.

“Those images are just garbage. There's no question. That's just someone misinterpreting what they're looking at.” said Milner, who has been examining malaria smears for 20 years. He dismissed the pictures as amateur work. 

The first and third images show incorrectly prepared blood samples, Milner said on June 25, 2021. “It’s a totally normal finding. It has to do with how you prepare the sample. If you have too much water, too little water, the cells will swell or collapse a little bit.”

Red blood cells in normal, swollen, and crenulated states (The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.)

According to Milner, the third picture only shows an out-of-focus sample, and the white dots depict dirt or dust gathered on the top glass slide placed over the sample, not something around the blood sample itself.

“So if you focus way out to the coverslip, you'll see schmutz that's sitting on the coverslip. That's not what's in the liquid layer,” he told AFP.

Milner added that there are currently no reported red blood cell morphological changes in normal Covid-19 infection, pointing to these journal studies on the matter.

All the experts interviewed by AFP highlighted the lack of any scientific basis for the conclusions made in the Facebook posts.

Chloé James, a hematologist at the Bordeaux University Hospital in France, told AFP on June 21, 2021 that there is “no connection between the vaccine” against Covid-19 and the slides, and that the healthy blood cells are the ones in the second image.

Véronique Vergé, a doctor and biologist at the Biology and Medical Pathology Department of the Gustave Roussy Center in France, told AFP on June 21, 2021 that “This is not a scientific article. There are no signs of any methodology. That is enough to say that these assertions have no value.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) closely monitors any potential side effects of the vaccines given emergency use authorization in the United States. The European Medicines Agency serves the same purpose in Europe. 

Globally, more than 2.6 billion Covid-19 vaccine doses have been administered as of June 28, 2021, according to the World Health Organization.

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