Fact check: Medical microchip developed by Columbia University has nothing to do with vaccines
The claim: New microchip technology could fit inside a vaccine needle
For a year the internet has been consumed with baseless conspiracy theories that the COVID-19 vaccine would be used to secretly microchip the American people.
Now there's a twist. Columbia University announced May 12 that researchers had developed a tiny microchip capable of measuring vital signs — and small enough to be injected.
The online reaction was predictable.
“Magnified many times. Tip of a hypodermic needle. Look what fits just inside…” a Facebook user captioned an image of the chip alongside a needle in a May 18 post.
The post does not explicitly mention vaccines, but text inside the image prompts viewers “Got yours yet?” and comments encourage others to be wary.
Other posts with the image referenced the COVID-19 vaccines in their captions or allowed viewers to draw their own conclusions in their comment sections.
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But the new chip has nothing to do with vaccines, has limited capabilities at this point and has yet to be tested on humans. Vaccines do not contain microchips, a conspiracy theory USA TODAY has debunked several forms of over the last year.
The Facebook user that posted the image did not respond to USA TODAY's request for comment.
Columbia Engineering recently developed the world's smallest chip
In a May 12 press release, Columbia announced researchers had developed a medical microchip. At 0.1 cubic millimeters, the researchers report the device is the smallest single-chip system of its kind and can be injected with a hypodermic needle.
But just because the chip can fit inside a needle does not mean it is being used to secretly microchip people.
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According to the study’s leader, Ken Shepard, professor of electrical engineering and professor of biomedical engineering, the device has not yet been approved for human use.
The research team is working to expand the chip's capabilities, but it currently is only able to monitor body temperature.
Chip has nothing to do with vaccines
In an email to USA TODAY, Columbia Engineering confirmed the chip “has nothing to do with Covid-19 or vaccinations.”
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Holly Evarts, a Columbia spokeswoman, said the Facebook post's implication from the school's project is inaccurate.
“It's about someday improving wound healing and potentially treating disease. It has only been tested on rodents, not on humans — human testing will not happen any time soon,” she said.
Our rating: Missing context
We rate the claim that a microchip could fit inside a hypodermic needle MISSING CONTEXT, because its online presentation is misleading. Columbia Engineering is developing an injectable microchip that can internally track vitals. A spokesperson for the school confirmed it has yet to be tested on people and has nothing to do with vaccines. The COVID-19 vaccine is not being used to secretly microchip recipients.
Our fact-check sources:
- USA TODAY, June 12, 2020, Fact check: Bill Gates is not planning to microchip the world through a COVID-19 vaccine
- Columbia Engineering, May 12, Tiny, Wireless, Injectable Chips Use Ultrasound to Monitor Body Processes
- EurekAlert!, accessed May 26, Smallest single-chip system that is a complete functioning electronic circuit; (IMAGE)
- USA TODAY, May 12, Fact check: COVID-19 vaccines don't cause magnetic reactions or contain tracking devices
- Holly Evarts, May 21, Email exchange with USA TODAY
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Our fact check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.