Over the course of the coronavirus pandemic, various conspiracy theories surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine have arisen, with one of the most popular pieces of false information being that the shots contain microchips.
Now, scientists have debunked another trend related to this conspiracy theory that has been circulating widely on social media—the so-called COVID vaccine magnet challenge.
Recently, videos have emerged on social media platforms such as Twitter and TikTok, in which people place small magnets on the arm of someone who has purportedly received a COVID-19 vaccine shot.
The magnets appear to stick to the arm on the site where the COVID-19 vaccine shot was allegedly administered (apparently proving the microchip conspiracy theory). But experts told Newsweek that a magnet will not stick to someone’s arm because of the injection.
Edward Hutchinson, a lecturer with the Centre for Virus Research at the University of Glasgow in Scotland, told Newsweek, that, first of all, the coronavirus vaccine was not produced using materials that are particularly magnetic.
“Secondly, even if it was (and it is not) you would need to introduce a large lump of magnetic material beneath the skin to get the action through the skin that the videos claim to show—if you want to give this a go, try getting a fridge magnet to pick up anything, particularly tiny bits of metal, through the skin between your thumb and index finger,” he said.
“Thirdly, even if it was plausible (and it isn’t) why would this have any bearing on whether the vaccine is working—it doesn’t.”
Al Edwards, an associate professor in biomedical technology from the University of Reading in England, also told Newsweek that there is “absolutely no way” that magnets can stick to people’s arms as a result of an injection.
“There is nothing magnetic in vaccine formulations, most of what is injected is extremely pure water, plus some simple salts to make the injection less painful, and an absolutely tiny amount of vaccine,” he said.
Edwards said the vaccine ingredients differ depending on the manufacturer, but generally include some tiny quantity—usually micrograms, in other words less than 0.1 gram—of biological material.
“This can be protein or sometimes RNA or similar nucleic acid, and sometimes includes some lipids,” Edwards said. “Lipids are just the oily part of cells—the cell membrane is made of a thin layer of oily lipids, which keeps the contents of the cell inside.”
“Your body is made up of exactly the same kind of biological building blocks, so there is simply no way that injecting a tiny fragment of this material could have any impact. Most food is made of similar molecules, and eating food doesn’t make people magnetic.”
Edwards said “it is just possible” that some needles are magnetic, if they are made out of the right kind of steel, although he suspected that most are made of stainless steel, which is often not magnetic.
“However, under no circumstances would the needle be left behind after vaccination, it’s an incredibly fine needle which is only in the arm for a few seconds, after which it’s thrown away safely by the health care worker giving the jab,” he said.
A spokesperson for American multinational pharmaceutical company Pfizer also debunked the magnet challenge, telling Newsweek that the COVID-19 vaccine it has developed with German partner BioNTech does not contain any metals or cause any response to magnetic fields.
“The vaccine does not cause a magnetic response when it’s injected,” the spokesperson said. “Pfizer is aware of the rise in anti-vax sentiment and misinformation, especially on social media platforms, with some people affected more than others during the pandemic.”
“In 2019, the World Health Organization listed vaccine hesitancy as one of the top 10 threats to global health, for the first time ever. We believe it is important that we talk openly to address people’s concerns and we would never criticize anyone for wanting to know more or feel reassured about vaccination for themselves or their loved ones. However, there is a need to take action to equip individuals with the right information.”
The spokesperson said Pfizer-BioNtech asks the public to “consider carefully” the sourcing information about the vaccines.
Aside from the experts, members of the public have also debunked the vaccine magnet challenge on social media.
For example, one Twitter user—@Loremaster_Luna—posted: “I got told a magnet would stick to my arm after the COVID vaccine. I tried. It fell to the floor. What a let-down!”