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Debunked: No, Professor Luke O'Neill didn't refuse a Covid vaccine because he 'didn't want' one

O’Neill has said he will take any vaccine offered to him – when he is eligible for one.
Apr 25th 2021, 7:00 AM 100,214 0

SEVERAL SOCIAL MEDIA POSTS being shared in recent days have suggested that prominent immunologist and commentator on the Covid-19 pandemic Professor Luke O’Neill refused to take a vaccine because he is in some way opposed to them. 

The posts all contain an audio clip from O’Neill’s appearance on RTÉ’s Brendan O’Connor show on Sunday 18 April. O’Neill was one of a number of guests on the programme’s newspaper panel. 

One of the posts states:

Well here’s something interesting…the countries No 1 vacc pusher Dr Luke O’Neill on national radio at the weekend openly declaring he refused to take the vaccine!!! [sic]

Another claimed O’Neill “doesn’t want to take the vaccine”. 

During the RTÉ programme on Sunday, the presenter mentioned that O’Neill had not had a vaccine yet, though he had been offered one. 

“I don’t work in the hospital,” O’Neill replied.

“My lab is on Pearse Street. We have our Covid centre in Trinity, three people in my lab go to the hospital to get samples – they got vaccinated. The rest of us said no. We were offered a vaccine, but we said no because we’re not on the front line.”

O’Neill joked that some people listening to the programme would likely say “oh he’s not taking it”, with O’Connor jokingly adding: “Luke O’Neill knows well, he won’t have that poison in him”.

The posts on social media suggest O’Neill refused to take a vaccination for reasons other than the fact that it was not his turn yet. He explained during the programme that he is not a frontline worker. As he is aged under 60 and does not have a very high risk or high risk medical condition, he does not fit into any of the current eligible cohorts. 

Professor O’Neill has been a strong proponent of vaccines all through the pandemic. In response to a query from The Journal, he said he was not eligible for a vaccine at the time and the colleagues in his lab who did get a vaccine work on samples from patients with Covid-19. 

“I will take any vaccine as soon as it’s offered,” he added. 


There is a lot of false news and scaremongering being spread in Ireland at the moment about coronavirus. Here are some practical ways for you to assess whether the messages that you’re seeing – especially on WhatsApp – are true or not. 

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Look at where it’s coming from. Is it someone you know? Do they have a source for the information (e.g. the HSE website) or are they just saying that the information comes from someone they know? A lot of the false news being spread right now is from people claiming that messages from ‘a friend’ of theirs. Have a look yourself – do a quick Google search and see if the information is being reported elsewhere. 

Secondly, get the whole story, not just a headline. A lot of these messages have got vague information (“all the doctors at this hospital are panicking”) and don’t mention specific details. This is often – but not always a sign – that it may not be accurate. 

Finally, see how you feel after reading it. A lot of these false messages are designed to make people feel panicked. They’re deliberately manipulating your feelings to make you more likely to share it. If you feel panicked after reading something, check it out and see if it really is true.’s FactCheck is a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of Principles. You can read it here. For information on how FactCheck works, what the verdicts mean, and how you can take part, check out our Reader’s Guide here. You can read about the team of editors and reporters who work on the factchecks here

Have you gotten a message on WhatsApp or Facebook or Twitter about coronavirus that you’re not sure about and want us to check it out? Message or mail us and we’ll look into debunking it. WhatsApp: 085 221 4696 or Email:

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Michelle Hennessy


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