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Thursday 28 September 2023 Dublin: 15°C
FactCheck: Many of the claims made about Covid-19 in a leaflet sent to Dublin households are false or misleading
The leaflet was distributed in the name of Anti-Corruption Ireland, an anti-government group.


IN RECENT DAYS, a leaflet containing a number of false, misleading and nonsensical claims about Covid-19 has been dropped into households in Dublin.

The leaflet, which bears the logo and contact information for Anti-Corruption Ireland (ACI), a largely online anti-government group, claims that Covid-19 is a “staged event to usher in a police state and a globalist ‘one world’ government”, which has become a trope of conspiracy theorists during the pandemic.

It claims that the facts around coronavirus are wrong; warns that the pandemic is a step towards tyranny; and says that vaccines are dangerous. 

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Many of these claims go against public health advice and are targeted at vulnerable people who may be more susceptible to the messaging. 

The leaflet was sent into us by a reader, asking for the claims to be verified. We have gone through the leaflet and factchecked the main claims made in it. 

  • Let us know if you too have received this leaflet in your area, and share this piece on social media if you have.

An overview of the claims in this article:

Claim: The government is unelected.


Claim: The government is massaging the Covid-19 death rates to inflate them and frighten the public.

Verdict: FALSE

Claim: 99.8% of patients recover from Covid-19.


Claim: 80% of “test-positive” people experience no symptoms.

Verdict: FALSE

Claim: Covid-19 is no more serious than the flu.

Verdict: FALSE

Claim: The WHO admits the virus is not believed to spread through surfaces.

Verdict: FALSE

Claim: The WHO admits the virus is not believed to spread through the air.

Verdict: Mostly FALSE

Claim: Staying indoors weakens physical and mental health.


Claim: Masks reduce oxygen intake.

Verdict: FALSE

Claim: Masks are dangerous harbours for germs

Verdict: FALSE

Claim: Masks harm your immune system


Claim: The HPV vaccine has harmed hundreds of teenage girls in Ireland.

Verdict: FALSE

Claim: The HPV vaccine can increase the risk of cancer by 44%.

Verdict: FALSE

Claim: India cut ties with Bill Gates after doctors linked the polio vaccine to thousands of cases of childhood paralysis.

Verdict: FALSE

Claim: Vaccines contain material from aborted babies which can alter the recipient’s DNA.

Verdict: FALSE

Claim: More than 80 studies link vaccines to autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders.

Verdict: FALSE

Claim: More than $4 billion has been paid out for vaccine injuries and death.


Claim: The US Supreme Court has ruled that vaccines are unavoidably unsafe.

Verdict: FALSE

Claim: The Covid-19 restrictions are part of an orchestrated ploy to implement the final phase of UN Agenda 2030, a ‘New World Order’ plan to destroy nation states and depopulate Earth.


Here is the evidence and the verdict for each of the claims:

NO FEE CABINET MEETING GROUP SHOT Julien Behal Photography Julien Behal Photography

Claim: The government is unelected.

Evidence: A general election was held on 8 February of this year, and three parties formed a coalition majority government in June.

Independent observers declared it to be a free and fair election.

It is often cited that Sinn Féin won more seats than Fine Gael. However, they were unable to garner enough support from other parties in the Dáil to form a government.

It is common for a party to win many seats but not be included in government. For example, at the outset of the 30th Dáil, Fine Gael held more seats than all other parties excluding Fianna Fáil combined but did not enter government.


195Covid-19 press_90604663 (1) Sasko Lazarov / Dr Ronan Glynn and Prof Philip Nolan speaking at a NPHET briefing. Sasko Lazarov / /

Claim: The government is massaging the Covid-19 death rates to inflate them and frighten the public.

Evidence: Let’s start with the basics here: At the time of writing, 1,806 deaths of people with either confirmed, probable, or possible Covid-19 have been reported to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC).

Ireland – along with the likes of the USA and Germany – follows the definition of what a Covid-19 death is as laid out in World Health Organisation guidelines:

A death due to Covid-19 is defined for surveillance purposes as a death resulting from a clinically compatible illness, in a probable or confirmed Covid-19 case, unless there is a clear alternative cause of death that cannot be related to Covid disease (eg trauma).
There should be no period of complete recovery from Covid-19 between illness and death. A death due to Covid-19 may not be attributed to another disease (eg cancer) and should be counted independently of pre-existing conditions that are suspected of triggering a severe course of Covid-19.

The result is that Covid-19 was a factor in all of those 1,806 deaths.

When this figure is quoted, the fact that many of these people had underlying conditions is often wheeled-out. That is a far-right trope used to suggest Covid-19 death rates are being inflated as a way of justifying continued restrictions on the public.

A report by the HPSC did highlight that the vast majority of people who have died with a positive diagnosis of Covid-19 had an underlying condition.

What is classed as an underlying condition can range from cancer to diabetes and high blood pressure. An underlying condition does not mean that the person was already sick and possibly going to pass away anyway.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said:

It is important to note that a third of people in Ireland (32%) have a long-standing health condition. This is a significant part of our society. Every single person with an underlying medical condition is important. Their lives matter.
Those with underlying medical conditions who have died from Covid-19 may have continued to live for a long time if they had not contracted it.

We have debunked this type of claim in more detail here.

Another factor here is that the government and relevant health authorities provide enough data to ensure confidence that the figures are not being massaged. In fact, the “probable” and “possible” deaths are occasionally denotified, meaning it has been deemed that the person did not die with Covid-19.

This is flagged in press releases and noted at National Public Health Emergency Team briefings – see an example for yourself here.

A report by the Health Information Quality Authority suggested in July that the total number of deaths may be a slight overestimation, but the report’s authors said the HPSC’s estimate was still “an accurate estimate”.

Verdict: FALSE

shutterstock_1745351552 Shutterstock / Photocarioca File photo of a patient with Covid-19 in an intensive care. Shutterstock / Photocarioca / Photocarioca

Claim: 99.8% of patients recover from Covid-19.

Evidence: This is a nuanced area of discussion where figures are often misquoted.

We will generally see mortality rates discussed as case fatality rates (CFR), and infection fatality rates (IFR).

The CFR deals with the cases that are clinically diagnosed.

The latest data from the HPSC puts Ireland’s CFR at 4.33%, meaning 95.67% of patients have recovered from the virus.

Worldwide, the average is currently around 2.7%.

But the CFR doesn’t paint a true picture of the situation.

The IFR is an estimate that takes into account cases we don’t know about. Maybe people were asymptomatic, fell outside of their country’s testing regime, or just didn’t present for a test, and so they were never counted as a confirmed case. The IFR takes this into account.

That’s what this 99.8% figure is, it’s an IFR of 0.2%. 

According to a seroprevalence study carried out by the HSE, we know that as of mid-July, around three times more people had been infected with Covid-19 than were picked up by testing.

This exact figure quoted by on the leaflet – 99.8% – likely originates from the Centre for Disease Control in the United States, which estimated back in June the mortality rate to be 0.26%.

But the same document made a range of predictions, including a “best estimate” of 0.4%, USA Today reports.

That figure is now out of date. The CDC’s current best estimate is as follows:

  • .003% among people aged 0 to 19
  • 0.02% among people aged 20 to 49
  • 0.5% among people aged 50 to 69
  • 5.4% among people aged 70+

You can see it for yourself here – just don’t make the same mistake as Fox News and mistake ratios for percentages.

USA Today quotes an epidemiologist who said the true rate likely lies between 0.2% and 1.5%.

FullFact highlights two other estimates of IFR – the World Health Organisation puts it at between 0.5% to 1%, while a study in England estimated it to be 0.9%.

Another study from the United Kingdom makes two predictions – 0.3% and 0.49%, depending on the data set used.

The numbers might seem low, but are many multiples the IFR of influenza – estimated to be 0.1% in the United States.

It’s also a very crude measurement of a very complex disease. We know that even if you clinically “recover” – as in, become symptom-free and test negative – people are left with life-changing complications as a result of Covid-19.

Healthy adults end up in ICU.

People have problems with their liver, lungs, and heart. Some have hair loss, some may have bowel problems, and others have impaired cognitive ability.

Many have fatigue which lasts for months.

How likely you are to die from Covid-19 will also depend on a range of factors – for example, if the ICUs are already full at your local hospital.

It is inaccurate to say the IFR is 0.2%, and it will not be clear for some time what the true percentage of people who recover from Covid-19 is.


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Claim: 80% of “test-positive” people experience no symptoms

Evidence: The World Health Organisation said in March that 80% of people have either no symptoms or mild symptoms – not that 80% would have no symptoms at all.

And the remaining 20%? 15% will end up in hospital requiring oxygen, and 5% will end up on a ventilator.

These fractions of severe illness also vary by country – for example in Ireland, in the region of 10% of people end up in hospital, while in the United Kingdom it’s 30% – and is highly dependent on the level of testing and the demographics involved.

These figures would have skewed higher earlier in the pandemic when testing wasn’t as widely available.

WHO’s figures are from when we didn’t know as much as we know now about the virus. The CDC estimated more recently that 40% of cases have no symptoms.

One significant study looked at examples from numerous settings – ranging from the Diamond Princess cruise ship to a homeless shelter in Boston – and suggested a similar rate.

Others small studies yield an estimate of between 30% and 40%, as the Guardian reports here, quoting a study from Iceland and another of Japanese citizens evacuated from Wuhan.

This could happen if you’re found to be a close contact of a confirmed case but have yet to develop symptoms, or you could be completely asymptomatic for the duration of the infection.

Here’s an example of one study has yielded a result of 80% – this one of 128 passengers on a cruise ship.

Another, even smaller study of just 115 people by the Office of National Statistics in the UK yielded a figure of 78% – as the report itself reads, “this suggests there is a potentially large number of asymptomatic cases, it is important to note that symptoms were self-reported rather than professionally diagnosed, and those without any evidence of symptoms will include instances where the questions relating to symptoms were not answered”.

However, as BBC News reports here, some of the 78% – 33%, to be exact – were pre-symptomatic.

If asymptomatic transmission is a significant driver of infection – as has been tentatively but not definitively suggested by the ECDC – large numbers of symptomatic spreaders can pose a massive difficulty in terms of bringing this virus under control.

Verdict: FALSE 

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Claim: Covid-19 is no more serious than the flu

Evidence: The World Health Organisation has observed that people are more likely to experience serious and critical illness as a result of Covid-19 than influenza:

These fractions of severe and critical infection would be higher than what is observed for influenza infection.

Put simply, more people will experience severe illness as a result of Covid-19 than of influenza.

Remember as well that we can vaccinate against and treat people with influenza. This is not the case for Covid-19.

Let’s roll back to the leaflet’s unproven claim on the mortality rate: if their own figure of 0.2% was true, this is still double the infection fatality rate for the flu.

Excess mortality – the ‘extra’ deaths that occur in a society outside of the norm – also shows that Covid-19 is having a more severe impact than the flu.

RTÉ’s Brainstorm has this piece from four researchers who demonstrate that the excess mortality is higher due to Covid-19 than for the flu. Death notices published on  – found to correlate more than 99% with officially registered deaths – peaked at 56% above normal levels in April, the researchers found.

Another simple way of looking at it is this: During the 2018/2019 influenza season, the two viruses in circulation – H1N1 and H3N2 – killed a total of 97 people in Ireland.

The mortality rate is still not a perfect gauge. As FullFact highlights here, all the evidence points towards Covid-19 being a much more contagious illness with a higher fraction of people developing severe illness.

At a very basic level, we have vaccines and several treatments for influenza, and none for Covid-19. Some have shown promise, but there are limitations - dexamethasone, for example, is used to treat the severely ill only.

Finally, here’s a quote from Dr Colm Henry, chief clinical officer with the HSE, from a NPHET briefing last month:

[Covid-19 is] not like the flu. If you look at the admission rates, those who are admitted who then need intensive care – let me give you an example. During the first phase, 12% of people admitted to hospital needed intensive care.
This is not the flu. This is a serious illness, which can cause death and which we’re now learning has serious after-effects. There’s a price to be paid for even young people catching Covid-19.

Verdict: FALSE

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Claim: The WHO admits the virus is not believed to spread through surfaces.

Evidence: This is straight from the World Health Organisation’s website:

[Droplets expelled by people coughing, sneezing, or speaking] can land on objects and surfaces around the person such as tables, doorknobs and handrails. People can become infected by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. This is why it is important to wash your hands regularly with soap and water or clean with alcohol-based hand rub.

Verdict: FALSE

shutterstock_1682886874 Shutterstock Shutterstock

Claim: The WHO admits the virus is not believed to spread through the air.

Evidence: The World Health Organisation has remained mostly on the fence about airborne transmission of Covid-19, known as aerosol transmission.

We must divide this up into two areas: Healthcare settings, and non-healthcare settings.

In healthcare settings, the WHO believes aerosol transmission can occur when certain aerosol-producing medical procedures – such as intubation – are carried out.

In non-healthcare settings, there are numerous examples and some studies which lend support to the theory that Covid-19 can be transmitted through the air. The WHO believes it “cannot be ruled out” but “more studies are urgently needed”.

The organisation has been criticised for its position on this, as a number of scientists believe there is mounting evidence that Covid-19 is airborne.

Verdict: Mostly FALSE as WHO has not given a definite opinion this

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Claim: Staying indoors weakens physical and mental health.

Evidence: There is evidence which points towards staying indoors and not going outdoors as being bad for your mental and physical health - but this has never been suggested by the Irish government or health authorities during this pandemic.

Even when the public was told to not go further than 2km from their home during the height of lockdown, that 2km was for exercise. People in at-risk groups were advised to get fresh air in an outdoor area while avoiding other people.


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Claim: Masks reduce oxygen intake

Evidence: The World Health Organisation advises that wearing face coverings – including medical masks such as N95- or FFP3-rated devices – does not reduce oxygen intake.

“The prolonged use of medical masks can be uncomfortable,” the advice reads.

However, it does not lead to CO2 intoxication nor oxygen deficiency. While wearing a medical mask, make sure it fits properly and that it is tight enough to allow you to breathe normally. Do not re-use a disposable mask and always change it as soon as it gets damp.

These are routinely worn by employees in areas such as healthcare and construction.

These masks, as well as cotton face coverings, are designed to be somewhat porous, allowing carbon dioxide and oxygen to pass through freely while blocking respiratory droplets. They do not block airflow to any extent that would cause hypoxia.

Verdict: FALSE

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Claim: Masks are dangerous harbours for germs

Evidence: A key part of the advice on wearing masks has been to not wear them for long periods of time and to wash them frequently, ideally after every use, with hot soapy water. If you don’t do this, you’re giving the mask a chance to be a carrier for bacteria.

Experts say you’re to treat them the same as your underwear. And you’re washing and changing your underwear frequently, right? We hope you are, anyway. And what if your underwear is wet or soiled?

Let’s stop – you get the gist. Common sense applies here.

But even if your mask hasn’t been cleaned in a few days, you will not run the risk of fungal or bacterial infections.

Claims that you could catch both pleurisy and Legionnaires have also been debunked.

There is a small risk in extreme situations where masks are filthy and the wearer has an open wound, The Associated Press reports.

The dangers posed by wearing a mask are minimal.

Acne caused by masks or ‘maskne’ is possible, particularly for healthcare workers, but it is a build-up of your skin’s natural oils and sweat rather than germs, and there are ways to avoid it - but these are not germs and is not considered dangerous.

Verdict: FALSE

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Claim: Masks harm your immune system

Evidence: Health experts have told AFP Fact Check this is just not correct and there is no scientific evidence to support it.

It quotes the American Lung Association, which said that ‘there is absolutely no scientific evidence that mask wearing or physical distancing weakens the immune system’.

BBC Reality Check came to the same conclusion. 


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Claim: The HPV vaccine has harmed hundreds of teenage girls in Ireland

Evidence: We previously published an in-depth FactCheck on the HPV vaccine, which found:

  • A very large number of clinical trials and scientific studies have proven HPV vaccines, including Gardasil, to be highly effective in preventing the virus that causes 70% of cervical cancer
  • These trials and studies have also proven HPV vaccines, including Gardasil, to be very safe, with extremely low rates of serious possible side effects (four out of 195,270 vaccinated individuals experienced a serious side effect following vaccination, that’s 0.002%)
  • What little scientific research has been done contradicting this overwhelming consensus, has consistently been shown to be flawed and unreliable
  • There is no evidence whatsoever that HPV vaccination caused the health difficulties observed among the 400 young women represented by the group Regret.

Verdict: FALSE

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Claim: The HPV vaccine can increase the risk of cancer by 44%

Evidence. Before we begin exploring the evidence, it’s important to stress – as demonstrated by our previous FactCheck – that there is an overwhelming body of evidence to show that the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is safe. That alone is almost grounds to dismiss this claim.

The claim originates in a 2006 report on the commonly used Gardasil vaccine.

There were more than 20,000 people involved in this trial.

In one study group of almost 300 people, a negative efficacy of 44.6% was recorded; there were more cases of CIN 2/3 – abnormal cells found on the surface of the cervix – in the placebo group than the group who received the vaccine.

However, this paints an inaccurate picture of the efficacy of the vaccine.

We spoke to Dr Kevin Ault, OBGYN at the University of Kansas Cancer Center, whose main area of research has been the development of a vaccine against HPV and was involved in some of the vaccine trials.

Dr Ault is also a member of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

He explained that a small percentage, in the region of 1% or 2%, of the entire cohort involved in this study had an HPV infection at the beginning of this study:

Since they were already infected at the beginning of the trial, they didn’t get any benefit from the vaccine.

He notes as well that it was such a small group among a larger study that it isn’t statistically significant:

When you looked at the larger picture, we didn’t find that the vaccine increased their risk.

Again, this study is from more than a decade ago.

Let’s look at a larger group from a more recent piece of research.

For example, 60,000,000 people in this study by the Lancet, published last year.

This finding was not replicated. Instead, they found:

“Our results provide strong evidence that HPV vaccination works to prevent cervical cancer in real-world settings as both HPV infections that cause most cervical cancers and precancerous cervical lesions are decreasing.”

This is just one of the many studies that prove the vaccine’s efficacy. Another was published this month, with a sample size of more than 1.6 million – the conclusion was that “among Swedish girls and women 10 to 30 years old, quadrivalent HPV vaccination was associated with a substantially reduced risk of invasive cervical cancer at the population level”.

Verdict: FALSE

u-s-seattle-bill-gates-interview-china PA Images PA Images

Claim: India cut ties with Bill Gates after doctors linked the polio vaccine to thousands of cases of childhood paralysis.

Evidence: India has not cut ties with Bill Gates, as FullFact reports here.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation continues to operate in India, working with a range of organisations from local government to community groups with an aim to improve ‘the lives of India’s poor and marginalised’.

The same publication notes that elevated levels of paralysis in some parts of the world, such as the United Kingdom where there is no polio vaccination programme, have not been linked to the vaccine. Instead, it can be the result of increased monitoring or other illnesses.

An element which is often quoted with this conspiracy is that circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus (cVDPV) can occur, but a number of factors must be present, such as poor sanitation and an under-immunised population. After the deactivated virus from the vaccine is excreted, it can then be picked up by humans again, and if allowed to circulate for a significant period of time, it can undergo enough mutations to become a dangerous illness again.

This is extremely rare – WHO highlights that 10 billion doses of the oral polio vaccine have been administered since 2000, with just 760 cases of cVDPV, and a number of changes to the genetic makeup of the vaccine allows the risk to be further reduced.

Verdict: FALSE

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Claim: Vaccines contain material from aborted babies which can alter the recipient’s DNA

Evidence: The trope that vaccines contain material from terminations derives from how genetic material from aborted fetuses was used to start cell lines. These allow some vaccines to be produced; a cell substrate is used to create large quantities of the virus.

The cell lines have multiplied over decades, to such scale that no new fetal tissue since the original cells has been required for them.

For example, fibroblast cells from the lungs of two aborted fetuses, obtained with permission in the 1960s and from women who sought terminations for unrelated reasons were used to create the MRC-5 and WI-38 cell lines used to create vaccines for measles, mumps, rubella, rabies, and polio, among many others. The original cells or genetic tissue no longer exist, but the cell line continues to function as required. If any of the cell line’s DNA structure still exists in the vaccine itself, it exists in minute quantities, and is not able to interact with your own DNA, as ABC News reports.

As National Geographic explains here:

“But by and large, new technologies have come along, making cells derived from aborted fetuses no longer necessary.”

The Catholic Church opposes abortion but there is support for vaccination programmes, even with this in mind, if no other vaccine is available.

There is absolutely no evidence that human or animal DNA in a vaccine could alter your own DNA. This, as Reuters explains here, is simply not how vaccines work.

Verdict: FALSE

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Claim: More than 80 studies link vaccines to autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders.

Evidence: Vaccines do not cause autism. Significant research has been carried out in this area. The original study which made the link was also thoroughly discredited.

No reputable study has ever found a link between vaccines and autism.

It is often suggested that thimerosal (a mercury-containing organic compound) in vaccines can cause neurodevelopmental disorders. There is no evidence that this poses a health risk, and a study which suggested it does has been dismissed as extremely poor quality, with better studies indicating that there is no risk.

Verdict: FALSE

United_States_Court_of_Federal_Claims Wikimedia Wikimedia

Claim: More than $4 billion has been paid out for vaccine injuries and death.

Evidence:  The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program in the United States has paid out this amount.

The programme was set up in the 1980s to provide financial compensation to people seeking legal redress who are found to have been injured by a vaccine.

Even in cases where the person is not found to have been injured, they may still receive compensation through a settlement.

Billions of doses of vaccine have been administered to people in the US in recent decades: there were 3.4 billion doses given between 2006 and 2017 alone, for example.

Since 1988, a total of 6,600 people have received compensation from the programme. This means that for every million doses of vaccine that were administered in the US, roughly 1 person got money from the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Programme (NVICP).

Of these, 70% of the claims were settled (meaning no conclusion was made, including a few dozen off the now-discredited Wakefield study).

Many of the remaining cases related to vaccine delivery (such as alleged shoulder injuries). has an extensive piece here on the scheme.

Around 520 claims related to deaths have been compensated in 30 years, the New York Times reports.

Of these, almost half were connected with a whooping cough vaccine that has not been used for two decades. A further 90 were connected with a flu vaccine.

Time magazine has also published a deep-dive on NVICP. The publication explains that ‘a fever, a short-term allergic reaction, soreness at the site of the injection’ can all be reasons for compensation.

In fact, the programme is cited as a demonstration of how overwhelmingly safe vaccines are due to the low number of successful claims.

A report in the US by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated that vaccines prevented more than 730,000 deaths among children in the US and over 21 million hospitalisations from 1993 to 2013. 



Claim: The US Supreme Court has ruled that vaccines are unavoidably unsafe

Evidence: This is a complex one.

Firstly, the term “unavoidably unsafe” originates in a piece of US legal opinion known as the Restatement of Torts § 402A (1965).

The choice of language was one that doesn’t properly express that this is actually a positive term. A product that is “unavoidably unsafe” should be given protection from liability due to the benefit it offers to society despite its inherent risks, and is the opposite of “unreasonably dangerous”.

Bruesewitz v. Wyeth was a 2011 case taken in the US Supreme Court centered on whether Congress, in passing the law which created the aforementioned NVICP, had this “unavoidably unsafe” phrase in mind when it referred to “side effects that were unavoidable”.

It boils down to whether vaccine manufacturers should be open to liability if it can be proved that there is a better design for their product – essentially one which is safer – or if these companies are exempt as long as they properly prepare the vaccine and provide adequate warnings.

The Supreme Court decided the latter: Vaccines do not fall into the category of ‘unavoidably unsafe’.

Doris Ress, a professor of Law at UC Hastings College of Law in California, offers a clear explanation of this here.

Verdict: FALSE

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Claim: The Covid-19 restrictions are part of an orchestrated ploy to implement the final phase of UN Agenda 2030, a ‘New World Order’ plan to destroy nation states and depopulate Earth.

Evidence: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a non-binding resolution from the United Nations, is more concerned with the likes of water management and gender equality than world domination.

This is a long-running conspiracy theory that regained momentum recently, particularly on social media like Facebook.

Read more about how it has been seized upon by conspiracy theorists and the far right here.


Edited by Christine Bohan. Additional reporting from previous FactChecks by Órla Ryan and Dan Mac Guill.

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