Around mid-May 2021, multiple videos (examples here, here, and here) claimed that COVID-19 vaccines caused magnetic reactions in vaccinated people. The videos purportedly showed that magnets attached to the arm where people received a COVID-19 vaccine, but not to the unvaccinated arm. The so-called “magnet challenge” went viral across social media platforms, including Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, receiving hundreds of thousands of interactions.
While some posts didn’t try to explain the phenomenon, others claimed that COVID-19 vaccines contained metals or microchips that attracted the magnets. None of the videos provided verification that the people appearing in them were actually vaccinated against COVID-19. Regardless of whether they received the COVID-19 vaccine or not, the claim that COVID-19 vaccines “magnetize” people is inaccurate and unsupported by scientific evidence, as we explain below.
None of the authorized COVID-19 vaccines contain magnetic ingredients
All materials react to magnetic fields in some way. However, these magnetic forces are, in general, so weak that most of these materials are effectively non-magnetic. Only a few metals, including iron, cobalt, nickel, and some steels, are considered truly magnetic and are attracted to magnets.
Lists of the ingredients in all the COVID-19 vaccines authorized for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are publicly available. The mRNA COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and BioNTech and Moderna contain mRNA, lipids, salts, sugar, and substances that keep the pH stable. The COVID-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson contains an adenovirus expressing the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, amino acids, antioxidants, ethanol, an emulsifier, sugar, and salts. None of these ingredients are metals, and therefore, none of them are magnetic.
The Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine contains similar ingredients to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, but includes magnesium chloride as a preservative. Although magnesium is a metal, it is also non-magnetic, both in its elemental form and as magnesium chloride salt. In fact, higher amounts of magnesium are naturally present in the body, in many foods, and in dietary supplements, and they don’t cause magnetic reactions in people.
Finally, the volume of a COVID-19 vaccine dose is very small, ranging from 0.3 ml in the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to 0.5 ml in the Moderna and Johnson and Johnson vaccines. According to experts, even if the vaccines contained a magnetic ingredient, the total amount would be insufficient to hold a magnet through a person’s skin. Michael Coey, a physics professor at Trinity College Dublin, explained to Reuters:
“You would need about one gram of iron metal to attract and support a permanent magnet at the injection site, something you would ‘easily feel’ if it was there […] By the way, my wife was injected with her second dose of the Pfizer vaccine today, and I had mine over two weeks ago. I have checked that magnets are not attracted to our arms!”
This Instagram video illustrates how a magnet (or any other small object) can stick to people’s skin without the need for any magnetic force.
Claims that COVID-19 vaccines contain microchips are unfounded
The claim that COVID-19 vaccines are magnetic because they contain microchips or tracking devices traces its roots to a conspiracy theory that has persisted throughout the pandemic. Despite being debunkedmany times, the baseless theory that COVID-19 vaccines include secret devices for tracking the population emerges from time to time in differentforms.
Such claims led the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to explain on its website that COVID-19 vaccines don’t contain microchips or tracking devices:
“No, the government is not using the vaccine to track you. There may be trackers on the vaccine shipment boxes to protect them from theft, but there are no trackers in the vaccines themselves. State governments track where you got the vaccine and which kind you received using a computerized database to make sure you get all recommended doses at the right time. You will also get a card showing that you have received a COVID-19 vaccine.”
The claims that the COVID-19 vaccines contain magnetic microchips are incorrect for multiple reasons. First, any microchip contained in a COVID-19 vaccine would need to be small enough to fit through the syringe needle. Vaccination generally uses 22 to 25-gauge needles. “Gauge” indicates the size of the hole that runs down the middle of the needle.
The higher the gauge, the smaller the hole. These needles have a maximum inner diameter of 0.5 mm. Current microchips aren’t small enough to fit through the syringe needle. Second, even if a microchip of that size exists, it would be too small to hold a magnet through the skin, for the same reasons explained by Coey above.
Finally, all COVID-19 vaccines are supplied in multidose vials containing five to 15 doses, depending on the manufacturer (see dosing information from Pfizer and BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson). This would make it impossible to guarantee that all individuals receive a chip. Some people could receive several chips, while others receive none. Furthermore, many of the devices would likely remain in the vial or get stuck in the syringe.
Claims that COVID-19 vaccines cause magnetic reactions are unsubstantiated and implausible. COVID-19 vaccines authorized for emergency use by the FDA don’t contain metals or other magnetic ingredients that could cause a magnetic reaction in vaccinated individuals. Furthermore, no component or microchip that fits in the volume of a COVID-19 vaccine dose would be strong enough to hold a magnet through the skin.
The coronavirus pandemic has a lot of dark sides. Around the world, people get ill and die, schools close, the healthcare system is overloaded, employees lose their jobs, companies face bankruptcy, stock markets collapse and countries have to spend billions on bailouts and medical aid. And for everyone, whether directly hurt or not, Covid-19 is a huge stressor shaking up our psyche, triggering our fears and uncertainties.
No matter how serious and sad all of this is, there are upsides as well. Therefore, along the Monty Python song “Always look on the bright side of life” let’s not forget those and make the best of what the crisis gives us. As the good old SWOT analysis tells us, there are not only threats, but also opportunities. With opportunities I don’t mean that the crisis provides extra business for companies like Zoom and Go to Webinar that enable virtual meetings, or for Amazon, which is planning to hire another 100,000 employees. The latter is probably more a threat than an opportunity for most, especially for the mom & pop stores that go through difficult times already.
With opportunities I mean general opportunities that are available for most people affected by the crisis. The current crisis offers at least seven of them:
Opportunity 1: More time
In today’s overheated economy time is often seen as the most valuable and sparse thing we have. Covid-19 shows why: because we have stacked our week with social gatherings and entertainment such as going to the theater, birthdays, cinema, restaurant, bar, sportclub, gym, music, festivals, concerts and what is more. Suddenly, all of that is cancelled or forbidden, giving us significant amounts of extra time. And still, live goes on. This shows us how easy it is to clear our calendars. Obviously this doesn’t apply to the health-care sector and other crucial sectors, but beyond those it applies to a large majority of sectors.
The opportunity is that we can spend this time on other things—or even better, on nothing and enjoy the free time. Looking at the crowded parks, waste collection points, garden centres and DIY stores in the last week, many people seem to have a hard time with the latter. Instead of enjoying the extra free time, they fill it immediately with other activities. To seize this first opportunity though, re-arranging how you spend your time and reserving time for nothingness is key. Not just during the crisis, but also after it. The advices in my previous article on the Covid-19 crisis could help in realizing this.
This offers a great opportunity to rethink our habits and routines and make changes. Now that you haven’t been able to go to the restaurant twice a week, commute 2 hours per day, hang out with your friends or go to a party every weekend, you can reflect on whether you really want to continue doing so after the crisis. The virus forces you to make changes to your daily life that you might actually want to keep also after the crisis.
Opportunity 3: Speed and innovation
Many organizations suffer from slow procedures, complex bureaucracies and rigid hierarchies making organizational life less than pleasant. The coronavirus has forced many of them to break through these rigid systems and act instantly. Suddenly procedures can be skipped or accelerated, rules can be side-tracked and decisions can be made more autonomously without formal approval. And suddenly employees are allowed to work from home without direct supervision.
Covid-19 shows that, as soon as there is a strong enough stimulus, things can change. This leads to remarkable innovations. Not being allowed to open their doors, restaurants, for example, are shifting to delivery mode. And schools suddenly do much of the teaching and even some of the testing online. This brings the opportunity to create innovations now that can be maintained after the crisis. And it also can help to keep the current speed and innovation mode afterwards.
Opportunity 4: Better meetings
As referred to in an earlier article, people spend up to 23 hours per week in meetings, half of which are considered a failure or waste of time. The current crisis has forced us to rethink how we deal with meetings. Because in many countries it is not allowed anymore to meet with a group of persons, many meetings are cancelled. And when they still take place they are mostly virtual and shorter.
As such, it provides an excellent opportunity for resolving one of the most disliked parts of organizational life. The technology for this is already present and mature for a couple of years, but the coronavirus triggers a sudden need for it. The real opportunity here is to make systematic changes so that meetings will be more effective, also after the crisis.
Opportunity 5: Reconnect and help
Challenging times offer a great opportunity for social bonding and other ways of connecting to and helping people. Of course, not being able to visit friends or family has increased isolation and feelings of loneliness in some cases. But the feeling of “we’re in this together” has also triggered interesting ways of connecting. Some of those have gone viral—such as Italians singing together from their windows and balconies—but there are many small, local initiatives too to connect and help people who need it.
In the individualized societies many of us live in, this provides opportunities to reconnect and create more social coherence. Not only during the crisis, but also afterwards. This opportunity comes with a big caveat though. Parallel to these nice initiatives we also witness how far people go to protect themselves and their families. People hoard food, medicine, toilet paper and guns without thinking a second of others. However, while it triggers self-serving egocentric behavior too, the Covid-19 crisis does provide us the opportunity to reconnect and show our social side.
Opportunity 6: Cleaner environment
The virus caused a shutdown or dramatical decrease of industrial activities. Factories are closed or operate far below their capacity, road traffic has reduced radically and air traffic collapsed, and the lack of tourism has emptied the streets in overcrowded cities like Venice, Amsterdam and New York. While this may be bad news for most people and especially those working in the affected industries, this is also good news for our planet. Covid-19 causes a significant reduction in green house gasses and other air, water and land polluting outputs. In Venice this has allegedly led to dolphins return after just a couple of weeks (although some argued this to be a hoax).
Whether the particular example is a hoax or not is not so relevant. The fact is that the shutdown and lockdown of large parts of our economy is good for nature—at least on the short term. The opportunity this provides, is to keep parts of this in place also after the crisis to make long-term improvements. Along the line of the previous opportunities, the current crisis provides us an opportunity to reconsider our lives and reorganize it in a way that has less impact on our planet.
Opportunity 7: Modesty and acceptance
The final opportunity that the Covid-19 crisis offers, is a chance to create awareness for the moderate role we play on this planet and accept that things cannot always go as we want them to go. The Covid-19 pandemic is a global crisis chat is unprecedented in modern peace time. We had other pandemics like SARS, but their impact was less substantial. And we had the 1973 oil crisis, but that was a man-made crisis. The coronavirus is not man-made and yet disrupts lives across the planet.
As such, the virus shows us that, no matter how well-planned and organized we are and no matter how much we live in the Anthropocene—the era characterized by significant human impact—we are not in control. One simple virus is disrupting everything. This offers a great opportunity. In almost every aspect of life we want to be in control. Whether it is health, airline safety or our calendars, we live in the illusion that full control is possible. The virus can help us create awareness that this is not the case. It provides an opportunity to take a more modest role and accept that many things are simply beyond our control.
Once again, the Covid-19 crisis has a large dark side. But as these seven opportunities show, it has positive sides as well. Since all seven opportunities require a quite fundamental change in how we approach the world, seizing them can take substantial time. In that sense, and if we keep on looking at the brighter sides of life, the longer the crisis lasts, the larger the opportunities are and the bigger the chances are of actually making changes to our deeply rooted habits and convictions. Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website or some of my other work here.
I help companies do strategy through training, mentoring and consulting. My drive is to bring you and your organization to the next level with strategy approaches that work. I wrote “Strategy Consulting,” “Nor More Bananas,” and “The Strategy Handbook.” Reach out to me via jeroenkraaijenbrink.com, LinkedIn or email@example.com
Pat Flynn 282K subscribers 26 million Americans are without a job right now, and that’s just in the U.S. alone. It’s a terrible situation, one that I’m all too familiar with myself having gotten laid off during the recession in 2008. These are tough times, but there are opportunities within them, too. I was able to build a business back in 2008 as a result of getting laid off, and I imagine that those who focus on the future, and the ability to create something new now, are the ones who are going to come out of this dire situation best.
Covid-19 vaccination is a new social dividing line: Those who have been vaccinated will likely encounter fewer barriers to travel and may have easier access to indoor spaces, from offices and schools to concert venues and restaurants. Everyone else, meanwhile, will remain subject to the familiar routine of travel restrictions, quarantining, and testing.
Some health technology experts are advocating for the development and use of digital “vaccine passports,” a smartphone app that could certify its user’s vaccination status with an airline or immigration official, employer, or anyone else who needs to know. Vaccine passports could help get the global economy back on track, but at the risk of discriminating against people who lack access to either the vaccination or the technology to certify they’ve had it.
What is a vaccine passport?
Vaccine passports won’t be a passport in the traditional sense of serving as an official government record. Instead, they’d just be proof of vaccination. Some airlines or other businesses may require a vaccine passport to enter as they slowly reopen.
In the US and EU, where the most first-phase vaccinations of healthcare workers and the elderly have taken place, those who get the shot typically receive a printed card with information about which vaccine they were administered and any required followup visits. These cards are similar to the yellow vaccination cards distributed when a person gets vaccinated for travel to certain countries, but they primarily serve as reminders to the holder of which shots they received.
A vaccine passport, however, would act more like a digital ID card. In theory, employers or airports would be able to scan an app or QR code that officially tells others if the holder has had their Covid-19 shots. It’s a similar concept to the immunity passports some governments discussed issuing in the early days of the pandemic to indicate which people had recovered from Covid-19, but scientists are more certain that people who have gotten the vaccine will have protective antibodies.
Vaccine passports will also help scientists learn more about the effectiveness of the Covid-19 vaccines available, too. “Having trustworthy and reliable proof of vaccination for COVID-19 vaccine will be essential for public health purposes, such as studies on vaccine effectiveness, vaccine impact, coverage monitoring and monitoring of adverse events following immunization,” a World Health Organization spokesperson told Newsweek this month.
When will they be available?
Vaccine passports are not yet widely available, but several private companies and government agencies are working on different versions that should begin to surface widely in the first half of 2021. CommonPass, an app being developed by the World Economic Forum in coordination with executives and officials from 52 countries, is undergoing trials with international airlines including United and Cathay Pacific. The International Air Transport Association is also finalizing an app, and the government of India is developing a smartphone certificate.
So far, no major airlines have said that they plan to make proof of vaccination a prerequisite for boarding. As for a paper addition to the standard yellow card, the WHO said that would need to be approved by member states and won’t happen until access to the vaccine is more universal—which isn’t likely to happen before late 2021 or 2022.
How will they work?
The CommonPass app allows users to access digital vaccination records, either from their healthcare provider, government registries, or from a personal health record like Apple Health. The data is held locally on an individual’s phone, rather than in a central database, to reduce the risk of hacking and to let users delete the data any time. The app is designed to vet the authenticity of these records and ensure that they meet the requirements of whatever country the user is traveling to. The app then generates a QR code that presents the vaccination record as a simple yes/no—rather than anything more detailed that could compromise privacy.
What are the downsides of using vaccine passports?
The most obvious ones are privacy and security. Immunization records, while not full health records, could potentially contain other information you’d want to keep private, like your email address, home address, or date of birth. The developers of CommonPass, for one, have promised that the app will use only the bare minimum of personal data and that the data will only ever be used for user-approved purposes.
But there’s always a risk that hackers or unscrupulous government agencies could use a vaccination database for nefarious purposes, like targeting certain communities for surveillance. Apps could also be hacked to display false certificates for those who haven’t gotten vaccinated.
The other problem is equity of access. An app could exclude those who don’t own a smartphone, which includes more than half of the global population. And systems that require an address could exclude people without homes. India’s vaccine passport, for example, will be linked to Aadhaar, the country’s biometric ID system, which, a decade after its rollout, still leaves out more than 100 million people, especially people experiencing homelessness or with a nonbinary gender identity.
Will you still have to wear a mask even if you have a vaccine passport?
Yes. First, there’s the issue of timing: It could take months for everyone who wants a vaccine to get both of their jabs. While some people aren’t vaccinated, it remains important to take precautions against the virus.
Second, there are still some long-term questions about the vaccines that scientists can’t answer yet, like how long each type of Covid-19 vaccine offers protection, and if they fully prevent viral transmission. These answers will take time—and maybe even vaccine passports—to uncover. In addition to continued clinical trials, scientists and public health officials can watch case counts and hospitalization rates to get an idea of how well vaccines are working to curb the pandemic.
But for now, it’s important for everyone who has been vaccinated to practice the same precautions we have been during the pandemic. That means washing hands, maintaining adequate distance, and wearing masks.
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