Fact Check: No, schools will not require a COVID-19 vaccine, with RFID chip, for students

Devon Link

Claim: Schools will require a deadly COVID-19 vaccine for returning students, and those vaccines will contain RFID chips.

It's been four months since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. As scientists around the world race to find a vaccine to bring back life as we knew it, misinformation about how that highly anticipated drug might affect students is inspiring confusion and concern online.

“The covid-19 vaccine will be mandatory in order to go back too (sic) school. They will contain RFID Chips. Once you take the vaccine theirs (sic) no out. The Bible says you will break out into boils. Homeschool your kids! Many kids will die from the covid-19 vaccine. Just to remind you the 4 kinds (sic) that took the vaccine, died immediately. Nothing will go back the same till everyone is vaccinated,” claims a meme Adam Champion posted June 23.

The meme makes several baseless claims about coronavirus, from nonexistent biblical claims to false accounts of children’s deaths. Most glaringly, it warns of false requirements for a COVID-19 vaccine that has yet to be successfully developed.

The meme, which has been widely shared, also promotes conspiracies about how vaccines will be used to microchip patients, which USA TODAY has previously debunked.

Champion has not responded to USA TODAY’s request for comment.

A syringe labeled COVID-19 Vaccination

Experts hope to have vaccine by late 2020, early 2021

Health officials have yet to approve a vaccine for American use. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and President Donald Trump have repeatedly said they hope to have a vaccine available by end of 2020 or early 2021.

USA TODAY assembled a nonpartisan panel of experts to track progress toward a vaccine.

“The brightest minds in the world are in this fight, and they are moving with an incredible sense of urgency,” said Dr. Michelle McMurry-Heath, a panelist and president and CEO of the Biotechnology Innovation Organization.

Experts estimate how long it will take to get a vaccine for COVID-19.

The panel stressed that scientists are not sacrificing safety in the race to develop a vaccine.

“When we say that we are ‘hurrying, moving fast, etc.,’ what the public thinks is that we are cutting corners,” said Dr. Gregory Poland, a panelist, director of the Mayo Vaccine Research Group and editor-in-chief of the journal Vaccine. “The messaging has been unfortunate.”

In a July 6 Facebook Live interview with the National Institutes of Health, Fauci said, "If things go the way it looks like they're going, one of these (vaccine candidates) will enter phase III at the end of July.”

Fauci was presumably referencing the vaccine candidate that American pharmaceutical company Moderna and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease are working together to develop.

More:Fact check: Dr. Anthony Fauci, Bill Gates won't profit from drug remdesivir

Vaccines are developed through a three- or four-phase process

The CDC explains that vaccine development is typically a multiphase process: administering to a small group, then to a larger group with varied characteristics, then to thousands of people and tested for efficacy. 

Telemedical startup GoodRx explained that if a candidate is successful in a phase III trial, the manufacturer will submit a Biologics License Application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for approval. According to the FDA, only about 25% or 30% of drugs that enter phase III move past it.

Some vaccines undergo phase IV, during which researchers continue to study the vaccine after it is licensed.

More:Fact check: While vaccines contain human DNA, there is no link to cancer, autism

Several candidates are entering late stages of development

According to the WHO, 21 candidates are in clinical trials and 139 are in preclinical evaluations.

Chinese Biotech company Sinovac announced July 6 that it would be starting phase III trials in Brazil.

A researcher examines a vaccine dose in a lab.

According to Al Jazeera, only three other candidates have reached phase III trials.

British-Swedish drug maker AstraZenca’s candidate, developed with the University of Oxford, has entered phase II/III trials in England and phase III trials in Brazil and South Africa.

China National Pharmaceutical Group Sinopharm announced in June that it would be among the first to enter phase III testing of it’s candidate in the United Arab Emirates.

The Moderna-NIAID vaccine candidate is scheduled to begin phase III trials in July.

After Chinese company CanSino Biologics found promising results from a phase II trial of a vaccine candidate, the Chinese military approved the drug for its soldiers on June 25.

Requirements will vary state-by-state

The CDC explains that state laws establish vaccinations requirements for public and private schools, and day care centers. All states provide medical exemptions for vaccination requirements, and many provide exemptions for religious and ideological beliefs.

No state has passed a law requiring schoolchildren to receive a COVID-19 vaccination. If a vaccine does prove effective through all phases of development, each state will determine its own vaccination requirements.

More:Fact check: No, Colorado bill does not mandate all students get vaccines without exception

No evidence a vaccine will be deadly for children

Several companies are conducting trials on children, as called for in phase II’s exploration of a candidate's effect on varied demographics. There is no evidence to suggest a COVID-19 vaccine will kill children.

Similar rumors that a newly developed vaccine had killed children began circulating in April. FactCheck.org, PolitiFact, Snopes and Reuters have found these claims to be false.

Neither PolitiFact, Reuters, Snopes nor USA TODAY has found any evidence any children have died from participating in COVID-19 vaccine development, as the meme suggests.

Our rating: False

The FDA has yet to approve any vaccine for use. Several vaccine candidates are moving into the late stages of development. If a vaccine does prove to effectively prevent the spread of COVID-19, it will be up to each state to determine what immunizations are required for students in schools. To date, every state in the U.S. allows some form of exemption from vaccination requirements. We rate the claim that a COVID-19 will be mandatory for students to return to school FALSE.

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