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No, you won’t be vaccinated regardless of whether you receive a shot

PolitiFact | Experts and health officials have said that it is impossible for COVID-19 vaccines to shed viral particles.
A man gets his vaccine shot by the  NY Department of Health while next to Union Square. Pop up vaccine sites are all over the city including popular tourist spots like Times Square.
A man gets his vaccine shot by the NY Department of Health while next to Union Square. Pop up vaccine sites are all over the city including popular tourist spots like Times Square.
Published Jun. 2, 2021
Updated Jun. 5, 2021

While new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that half of U.S. adults are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, one widely shared social media post suggests that those who are not vaccinated don’t actually have to get the shot to become immune.

“They don’t want you to wear a mask now because those who are vaccinated will ‘shed’ the viral particles all over you,” reads a May 25 Instagram post. “... Pfizer even said during trials not to be around pregnant women because they could miscarriage simply by ‘shedding’ from someone who was vacs-inated. You will become ‘vaccinated’ regardless of whether or not you received the shot.”

As evidence, the post also cites “Pfizer vaccine warnings page 67.”

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

The claim is wrong. The only way a person can become vaccinated is to receive the vaccine.

The post’s claim appears to be rooted in the debunked notion that the COVID-19 vaccines can be “shed” like the coronavirus itself. But there is no biological mechanism for any COVID-19 vaccine side effects or components to be transmitted to others.

COVID-19 vaccines produce a spike protein inside the cells of the person contained deep within the muscle and lymph nodes. The messenger RNA, or mRNA, used by the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines and the altered adenovirus used in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine cannot shed because they do not replicate.

Adam Wheatley, a senior research fellow in microbiology and immunology at the University of Melbourne, said that these vaccines do not cause shedding because they encode only the spike protein, which cannot form a virus and pass from one person to another.

Akiko Iwasaki, an expert of immunobiology at Yale and a principal investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, said that the vaccine protein vector will face a “dead end” inside the vaccinated person and degrade naturally.

The CDC has advised that there is no evidence that any authorized COVID-19 shot will result in fertility problems or miscarriages. Likewise, there is no truth to the claim that people who are not vaccinated can suffer miscarriage or fertility problems by being around those who are.

The CDC reports that those who are trying to become pregnant also do not need to avoid pregnancy after COVID-19 vaccination.

Asked about the post’s claims, a Pfizer spokesperson said that the vaccine can enter the human body only through an administered dose.

By citing “page 67” of the “vaccine warnings,” the post appears to be referencing page 67 of the Pfizer clinical vaccine protocol. There, a passage says that an environmental vaccine “exposure during pregnancy” is considered to have taken place when:

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“A female family member or healthcare provider reports that she is pregnant after having been exposed to the study intervention by inhalation or skin contact.

“A male family member or healthcare provider who has been exposed to the study intervention by inhalation or skin contact then exposes his female partner prior to or around the time of conception.”

Asked about this passage in the protocol, a Pfizer spokesperson said that, based on current knowledge, experts believe that COVID-19 vaccines are unlikely to pose a risk to the pregnant person or fetus. FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccines cannot cause COVID-19 infection in the mother or infant. According to the CDC, any of the currently authorized COVID-19 vaccines can be administered to pregnant or lactating people.

In short, the passage is described by experts as standard language meant to widely cover any possible exposures and ensure that the clinical trial process is rigorously regulated. Its inclusion in the safety protocol means that investigators are made aware when, say, a pregnant person has been environmentally exposed to the vaccine. This information enables them to study whether there is any effect. However, exposure to a person who has received the Pfizer vaccine will not transmit virus particles, since no COVID-19 vaccine authorized for use contains the live virus.

Our ruling

An Instagram post claims that “you can be ‘vaccinated’ regardless of whether you receive the shot or not.”

That’s wrong. The only way to be vaccinated against COVID-19 is to receive a vaccine. It is biologically impossible for COVID-19 vaccines to result in virus shedding that will expose others to the virus, let alone in a way that would give unvaccinated people immunity.

We rate this claim False.

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