FACT CHECK: Facebook Post Attempts To Link Bus Ad About Pediatric Strokes To COVID-19 Vaccines

Hannah Hudnall | Fact Check Reporter

A post shared on Facebook allegedly shows a bus advertisement saying “Kids Have Strokes Too” that was created to normalize pediatric strokes ahead of COVID-19 vaccines becoming available for young children.

Verdict: Misleading

While the ad was created by the charity foundation Achieving Beyond Brain Injury to raise awareness about pediatric strokes, there is no indication the ad has anything to do with COVID-19 vaccines.

Fact Check:

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in late October granted emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children ages five through 11. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which has FDA approval for people 16 and older, has also been authorized for emergency use for children ages 12 to 15, according to the agency’s website.

A picture of a bus ad saying “Kids Have Strokes Too, Know The Warning Signs” has recently gained traction online, with this particular Facebook post alleging, “Strokes do not happen in kids! They are conditioning us to believe that this is normal now that they approved the gene therapy on our kids.” The text accompanying the post appears to be referencing COVID-19 vaccines.

Through a reverse image search, Check Your Fact found that the ad was created by the Canada-based charitable foundation Achieving Beyond Brain Injury. The caption of a photo on the organization’s website showing the same ad states the organization put PSAs on the side of some Durham Region Transit buses in May and June to help achieve their goal of “spreading awareness to everyone that Kids have Strokes too.”

While the bus ad is meant to raise awareness about pediatric strokes, there is no indication the campaign has anything to do with COVID-19 vaccines. The ad itself does not mention COVID-19 vaccines, and no blog posts or social media posts from the organization link the ad to them. (RELATED: Is The Make-A-Wish Foundation Only Granting Wishes To Fully Vaccinated Children?)

Nadine Vermeulen and Rebecca DiManno established the organization in June 2020, a few years after their sons suffered strokes, to raise awareness about pediatric strokes, the Achieving Beyond Brain Injury website explains. A pediatric stroke is a “rare condition affecting one in every 4,000 newborns and an additional 2,000 older children each year,” according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.

In response to social media claims about the bus ad, Achieving Beyond Brain Injury on Oct. 29 posted a statement on its Facebook page that said the following:

It has been brought to our attention that a photo of our awareness initiative that we created in May 2021 for Pediatric Stroke Awareness month has been taken by some people/groups and is being shared on social media diverging from its intended purpose. Our charity’s mandate, that was created out of a shared experience of our sons’ fight for their lives, has always been to create much needed awareness of Pediatric Stroke, and to celebrate Pediatric Stroke and Brain Injury Survivors by provided post secondary scholarships. Whilst this image that’s being shared is disheartening to us and all who’ve been affected by pediatric stroke, let’s not allow it to stop us from creating much needed awareness to pediatric stroke and its signs.

Common side effects from COVID-19 vaccines include soreness at the injection site, tiredness, headache, chills and nausea, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). There have been some reports of cases of myocarditis and pericarditis in children ages 12 to 17 after Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccination, but such cases are rare, the CDC states on its “COVID-19 Vaccines for Children and Teens” webpage.

The Facebook post making the misleading claim about the bus advertisement also attempts to suggest COVID-19 vaccines are “gene therapy.” The CDC has previously debunked the notion that COVID-19 vaccines alter DNA, noting, “COVID-19 vaccines do not change or interact with your DNA in any way. Both mRNA and viral vector COVID-19 vaccines deliver instructions (genetic material) to our cells to start building protection against the virus that causes COVID-19. However, the material never enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA is kept.”

Hannah Hudnall

Fact Check Reporter