An article posted on an anti-vaccination group’s Facebook page claims the Australian government gave approval for a pharmaceutical company to forcibly inoculate people by spraying vaccine from a plane.
The claim is false. Experts have told AAP FactCheck no aerosol vaccines are capable of being distributed via aircraft. The approval in 2014 was for the trial of the cholera vaccine Vaxchora involving about 1000 participants ingesting the medication orally.
The article from a conspiracy website was first shared to Facebook in 2016, but has had a recent resurgence with more than 100 shares since June 5.
The headline ominously warns “Australia To Forcibly Vaccinate Citizens Via Chemtrails”, before claiming: “Australia have approved the licence application from Big Pharma company PaxVax that will allow them to intentionally release a GMO vaccine consisting of live bacteria into Queensland, via chemtrails.”
However, the article provides no evidence Australia has approved any vaccine to be delivered by chemtrails – which are actually contrails, water condensation sometimes seen following aircraft high in the sky.
Chemtrail conspiracy theories allege contrails are made up of chemicals intentionally sprayed on unsuspecting citizens. Despite being debunked as a natural phenomenon caused by condensation, the misinformation continues to spread, spurred on by the backlash to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Vaxchora is an oral vaccine,” Dr Chen told AAP FactCheck in an email. “I know of no plans to disperse the vaccine by air; there is no scientifically plausible reason to disperse the vaccine by air.”
“Vaxchora was never sprayed from aeroplanes to forcibly vaccinate Australians or anyone else,” Emergent media relations director Matt Hartwig told AAP FactCheck in an email. “The vaccine must be ingested in order to provide the patient with protection against cholera.”
Oral vaccines, such as the one for polio, are designed to be taken in liquid form. To be dispersed in the air by a plane it would have to be an aerosol. Aerosol vaccines exist, but are taken by inhaling the substance nasally, not sprayed from a plane at cruising altitude.
Michelle McIntosh, a drug delivery expert at Monash University who has worked on projects attempting to determine the viability of aerosol vaccines, says she’s “unaware of any vaccination programs where an aeroplane is used to deliver an aerosol plume of powder intended for human inhalation/vaccinations”.
Professor McIntosh told AAP FactCheck mass aerosol vaccination by plane is not “feasible or sensible”.
“An important consideration in vaccination programs is ensuring that each patient receives the correct dose, which could not be achieved with an aerial sprinkle of a vaccine powder,” she said in an email.
As the Vaxchora vaccine was genetically modified to prevent the cholera bacteria in the vaccine from causing disease, it required approval from the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR), which regulates genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in Australia.
According to the article, OGTR said the vaccine qualified “as a limited and controlled release under section 50A of the Gene Technology Act 2000“. However, this does not mean PaxVax was given approval to release the vaccine from a plane.
Associate Professor Fiona McDonald, a health law expert at the Queensland University of Technology, told AAP FactCheck in an email that section 50A of the Act is intended to restrict the spread of GMOs in the environment in experiments conducted outside of a laboratory.
The OGTR approved the trial under these grounds after a risk assessment found there were negligible risks to the environment and community.
A spokesman for the Department of Health told AAP FactCheck via email the OGTR “has never approved, or been asked to approve, aerial distribution of any vaccines”.
In 2018, US-based fact-checking website Snopes also concluded the claim was false, finding it originated in a since-deleted 2013 post from an anti-vaccine website.
The claim the Australian government approved a pharmaceutical company to forcibly vaccinate people with chemicals sprayed from planes via chemtrails is false. The approval was for an orally ingested cholera vaccine trial. Experts told AAP FactCheck it is not feasible to inoculate people with vaccines sprayed from planes.
False – The claim is inaccurate.