FACT CHECK: Viral Post Claims Flu Vaccines Can Make People Test Positive For COVID-19

Brad Sylvester | Fact Check Editor

An image shared on Facebook claims that people who have received flu vaccines in the past three to five years will “probably test positive” for COVID-19.

Verdict: False

Medical experts refute the claim, and the Food and Drug Administration hasn’t observed any instances in authorized tests to date. Flu vaccines do not contain the new coronavirus.

Fact Check:

The screen-grabbed Facebook post attributed the claim to an unidentified doctor whom the individual spoke to “this afternoon.” It attempts to use the dubious information to explain why some people test positive without exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

“If you have had a flu shot in the last 3-5 years, you will probably test positive,” the doctor is quoted as saying. “Coronavirus antibodies have been in the vaccines since H1N1.”

SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is a new coronavirus that first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late in 2019. Coronaviruses are distinct from influenza viruses.

“There are 4 coronaviruses that cause common cold like symptoms and account for 10-30% of common colds,” Dr. Warner Greene, professor of medicine, microbiology and immunology at the University of California, San Francisco, said in an email to the Daily Caller News Foundation. “To my knowledge, these coronaviruses have not been incorporated into the seasonal flu vaccines.”

Flu shots contain either inactivated flu viruses or a single gene from a flu virus to produce an immune response without causing infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. John Sanders, chief of infectious diseases at Wake Forest Baptist Health, told AFP Fact Check the claim that flu shots make people test positive for COVID-19 was “unsubstantiated rubbish.” (RELATED: Did The Kaiser Permanente CEO Die Just Days After Getting A Flu Shot?)

“Both the molecular (viral detection) tests and the serological (antibody) tests have been and are being validated and have demonstrated no cross-reactivity with antibodies generated from previous influenza vaccines,” he told AFP Fact Check.

A spokesperson for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) told FactCheck.org that all FDA-authorized COVID-19 tests are specifically checked for cross-reactivity with influenza virus or influenza antibodies. There has been no such cross-reactivity observed for any of the tests to date, the spokesperson said, according to FactCheck.org.

Other posts have falsely claimed that anyone who was vaccinated for the flu within the last 10 years will likely test positive for COVID-19. These claims appear to stem from a video interview with anti-vaccine advocate Dr. Rashid Buttar, who made a similar claim, Reuters reported.

The CDC noted on its website that “there is no evidence that getting a flu vaccine increases the risk of getting COVID-19.”

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Brad Sylvester

Fact Check Editor
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