A Facebook post shared more than 2,000 times falsely claims that COVID-19 vaccines are causing cancer and HIV — but this has been widely disproven. Let’s take a look at the facts.
Rumors that mistake coincidental events — in this case, the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccines with anecdotes of people getting diagnosed with cancer and HIV — rely on the logical fallacy of questionable cause, or confusing correlation with causation. Additionally, this rumor commits the base rate fallacy by ignoring the typical rate at which people are diagnosed with cancer and HIV — and failing to account for the growing percentage of the population that is vaccinated. In other words, with 67% of the American population now vaccinated with at least one dose, a significant portion of people who are diagnosed with cancer — or any other health condition — will also, coincidentally, be vaccinated. These same fallacies have driven falsehoods about coincidental deaths and COVID-19 cases as well as misinformation involving the vaccinated in Israel.
- “COVID-19 vaccines work — misreading the data can make you think otherwise” (Dr. Katrine Wallace, The Hill).
- “Planet Money Investigates The Base Rate Fallacy As It Pertains To The Pandemic”(Amanda Aronczyk, NPR).
- “No, COVID-19 vaccines don’t cause HIV, AIDS or cancer” (Terrence Fraser, The Associated Press).
- “Fact check: COVID-19 vaccines aren't linked to cancer, HIV” (Daniel Funke, USA Today).
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