‘How A Picture Of My Foot Became Anti-Vaccine Propaganda’

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December 9, 2020

Patricia is suffering from an unexplained skin condition – but a misunderstanding about what might have caused it set off a chain of events that turned her foot into fodder for anti-vaccine activists.

The picture showed purple and red sores, swollen and oozing with pus.

“Supposedly this is a [vaccine] trial participant,” read the message alongside it. “Ready to roll up your sleeve?”

Within a day, those same feet had been mentioned thousands of times on Instagram and Facebook. The picture went viral on Twitter as well.

“See they are trying to deliberately hurt us with the vaccine,” one tweet read.

The feet belong to Patricia – a woman in her 30s living in Texas. And it’s true – she was a participant in a trial for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine that started to be administered on Tuesday.

But this is also true: Patricia never received the actual vaccine. Medical records show that she received a placebo, a small injection of salt water. (Researchers do this as a matter of routine, to compare groups that receive a drug or a vaccine with those who receive the placebo.)

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