FactCheck Social Media

Fake article’s COVID-19 vaccine ‘penis injection’ advice is a big flop

2021-01-08 16:33:41

The Statement

An image circulating on social media shows a purported CNN article that says doctors are encouraging men to get COVID-19 vaccines administered in their genitals to provide the quickest route for the treatment to circulate.

One January 1 Facebook post, from a user in Australia, features a photo of a purported CNN news article with the headline, “Doctors encourage covid-19 vaccine injections in penis.”

Below the headline are two pictures: one of a doctor and the other a graphic showing a needle being administered to the side of a penis.

The subheading reads, “Doctors are discovering that, for male patients, the penis offers the fastest release of the vaccine throughout the body.”

The partially covered text in the first line of the article states, “Based on findings from a University of California…”

At the time of writing, the post has been viewed more than 15,000 times, attracting more than 140 shares and 120 reactions. Other versions of the claim have been shared widely, including in New Zealand.

Facebook post
 A Facebook post includes an image of a fake CNN article carrying COVID-19 vaccine injection advice. 

The Analysis

While the post claims to show a CNN article citing official research, the image is fake, the study does not exist and doctors have not advised that COVID-19 vaccines be administered via people’s genitalia.

Many countries have begun administering COVID-19 vaccinations, including the United States and members of the European Union. In Australia, vaccinations are due to be rolled out in late February with priority given to health, border control and aged-care workers.

However, there is no evidence of CNN publishing an article matching that seen in the post, and several stylistic features in the Facebook image also differ from other news articles on CNN’s website.

For example, genuine CNN articles feature a different headline font, as well as an author’s byline and a date-line immediately below the header. These aspects are missing from the post.

The post’s purported CNN article also features the name of the disease formatted as “covid-19” while CNN commonly uses “Covid-19”. Subheadings beneath photos and images in legitimate CNN articles are aligned to the left, not in the centre as shown in the post image. CNN declined to comment when contacted by AAP FactCheck.

Both images appearing in the fake CNN article are also unrelated to the claim. The image of the doctor on the left is Dr Mohitkumar Ardeshana, a practitioner from Biote Medical’s Claremont Medical Center in California which specialises in hormone therapy.

Dr Ardeshana previously told Indian fact-checking site Boom, “The article is completely fake. I have not said anything about such a study. It is a work of mischief by someone.”

The image on the right purporting to demonstrate the procedure for administering the COVID-19 vaccine in the penile area features on the website for Kansas City’s Saint Luke’s healthcare service in instructions on how to perform a self-injection procedure to treat erectile dysfunction.

The post claims the advice to administer COVID-19 vaccinations in the penis was based on “findings” from the University of California. A University of California spokesman told AAP FactCheck in an email the post is “untrue and widely debunked”.

Vaccines have generally been recommended to be administered in muscles such as the anterolateral thigh and the deltoid muscle, based on the Department of Health’s Australian Immunisation Handbook.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the two COVID-19 vaccines approved for emergency use – from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna – are recommended to be administered in the deltoid muscle in the arm.

According to an article published in the US National Library of Medicine, administering a vaccine in a muscle “optimises the immunogenicity of the vaccine and minimises adverse reactions at the injection site”.

“Injecting a vaccine into the layer of subcutaneous fat, where poor vascularity may result in slow mobilisation and processing of antigen, is a cause of vaccine failure,” the article said. The penis is not a muscle.

An ABC News article says vaccines injected directly in a blood vessel are “vulnerable to destruction”, and therefore sites such as the upper arm muscle are recommended instead.

Vaccination dose
 Vaccines are commonly administered with an injection in the upper arm. 

The Verdict

The post features an image of a non-existent CNN article. There is no evidence of the news outlet publishing the information, while the purported article also contains stylistic flaws and includes imagery unconnected to the story.

The University of California has not published any research suggesting that COVID-19 vaccines should be administered to the penile area. Medical authorities say vaccine injections are recommended to be administered in muscles, usually the upper arm.

False – Content that has no basis in fact.

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