The claim: The cancer rate has increased 20 times since Operation Warp Speed
Since the beginning of the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine, christened Operation Warp Speed of the Trump administration, misinformation about the side effects of the shots has circulated widely on the web. Now, some social media users claim that the vaccines are to blame for an increase in cancer cases.
And January 20th Facebook post shows a screenshot of a tweet from Afzal Niaz, an alleged doctor claiming there has been a “massive increase” in cancer rates.
“I warn that there are now 20 times the normal average for certain types of cancer, ever since the ‘Operation Warp Speed’ injections were first introduced,” reads the text of the post.
But the claim is false, as independent fact-checking organizations have reported.
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Medical experts and government health officials told USA TODAY that there has been no dramatic increase in cancer rates during the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine. There is also no evidence that the vaccines cause cancer.
USA TODAY reached out to Niaz and social media users, who shared the claim for comment.
Experts, government officials reject the claim
The Facebook post’s claim that cancer has increased 20 times since the COVID-19 vaccines were rolled out in December 2020 is unfounded.
“It would be historic in terms of so much of an increase in such a short period of time,” Dr. Arif Kamal, the first head of patient care for the American Cancer Society told USA TODAY. “If you check with directors of cancer centers and colleagues across the country, no one sees that level.”
If the claim in the post was true, it is natural that oncology offices would be overwhelmed with cancer cases. But there is no evidence that this is the case, according to Dr. Howard Formana radiology professor at Yale University.
The latest data on nationwide cancer incidence are from 2018, according to the American Cancer Society. Kamal said, however, that individual states have surveillance systems that track the incidence of cancer in real time, which measures the number of new diagnoses in a given period.
USA TODAY reached out to 15 state health departments about the cancer incidence in 2020 and 2021, where the COVID-19 vaccines were available.
Douglas Loveday, a spokesman for the Texas Department of State Health Services, said that while data is still being collected, there have been no noticeable increases in state cancer rates since the COVID-19 vaccine was rolled out.
“We are not aware of reports from doctors indicating that cancer rates in Texas have risen dramatically since December 2020,” he said in an email.
Data available from the Florida Department of Health focused on deaths rather than cancer rates, but also showed no increase from 2019 to 2020. The California Department of Public Health issued a statement saying state data so far show no increase since the release of the COVID-19 vaccines.
USA TODAY has previously refuted allegations of a cancerous growth due to the COVID-19 vaccines.
No evidence that COVID-19 vaccines cause cancer
The implication of the Facebook post that the COVID-19 vaccines cause cancer is also false. USA TODAY has previously rejected the claim that COVID-19 vaccines have been linked to cancer.
None of the active ingredients in Food and Drug Administration-approved vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are carcinogenic, according to Forman.
“The FDA would not authorize a substance that was a known carcinogen,” Forman said.
Research specifically looking at the relationship between COVID-19 vaccines and cancer is underway, he said. But clinical trials involving tens of thousands of participants found Pfizer and Modern vaccines were safe and effective in preventing severe COVID-19 cases, and millions of Americans have received them.
Some studies indicate that the vaccines may actually help cancer patients.
ONE 2021 survey found that a dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine increases helper T cells, a type of white blood cell that coordinates immune attacks against infections, according to the National Cancer Institute. The study found that a second dose of the vaccine increases the level of kills T cells, which can kill cancer cells.
A literature review published in 2021 found that the COVID-19 vaccines were safe and recommended for cancer patients. And according to experts at Meedan’s Health Desk, there is no evidence The COVID-19 vaccines are associated with an increased risk of cancer.
Our rating: False
Based on our research, we FALSE assess the claim that the cancer rate has increased 20 times since Operation Warp Speed. Experts and state health officials say there has been no sign of an increase in the number of cancers since the rollout of the vaccine. COVID-19 vaccines do not cause cancer.
Our fact check sources:
- Dr. Howard FormanFebruary 9, telephone interview with USA TODAY
- Dr. Arif Kamal, February 9, telephone interview with USA TODAY
- USA TODAY, September 27, 2021, Fact check: False claim that the cancer has increased as a result of COVID-19 vaccines
- Associated Press Fact Check, February 7, The cancer rate has not increased 20-fold from COVID-19 vaccines
- USA TODAY, December 12, 2020, Trade in COVID-19 vaccines, regular deliveries, dose tracking: What we know about Operation Warp Speed distribution
- Florida Department of Health, visited February 11, Cancer rates
- Reuters, November 12, 2021, Fact-check-No evidence that COVID-19 vaccines cause cancer
- California Department of Health, February 11, Email Exchange with USA TODAY
- American Cancer Society, December 6, 2021, Dr. Arif Kamal Appointed First Chief Patient Officer of the American Cancer Society
- American Cancer Society, January 12, The risk of dying from cancer continues to decline at an accelerated pace
- Douglas Loveday, February 10, E-mail exchange with USA TODAY
- Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Clinic, December 9, 2021, Fact check: 7 myths about COVID-19 vaccines
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, January 4, Understanding of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines
- USA TODAY, November 4, 2021, Fact check: COVID-19 vaccines are not linked to cancer, HIV
- Meedan’s Health Desk, October 19, 2021, There is no evidence linking COVID-19 vaccines to diseases such as cancer or HIV
- National Cancer Institute, accessed February 11, T-cell definition
- National Cancer Institute, accessed February 16, Killer T-cell definition
- eLife, October 12, 2021, mRNA vaccine-induced T cells respond identically to SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern, but differ in lifespan and targeting characteristics depending on previous infection status
- Hackensack Meridian Health, January 11, 2021, A simple breakdown of the ingredients in the COVID vaccines
- Immunity, 14 September 2021, Rapid induction of antigen-specific CD4 + T cells is associated with coordinated humoral and cellular immunity to SARS-CoV-2 mRNA vaccination
- USA TODAY, December 16, 2021, The CDC recommends Pfizer, Modern COVID vaccines over Johnson & Johnson to individuals 18 years of age and older
- USA TODAY, August 5, 2021, Fact check: 6 of the most persistent misconceptions about COVID-19 vaccines
- Food and Drug Administration, accessed Feb. 16. Comirnaty and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine
- Food and Drug Administration, accessed Feb. 16. Nail wax and Modern COVID-19 vaccine
- British Society for Immunology, accessed 16 February, Helper and cytotoxic T cells
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