Vic. Health Secretary Martin Foley’s vaccination blunder is fueling disinformation around the world

CoronaCheck is RMIT ABC Fact Check’s weekly email newsletter dedicated to combating the misinformation infodemic surrounding the coronavirus outbreak.

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CoronaCheck #85

CoronaCheck this week sets the record for vaccination rates among Victorians hospitalized with COVID-19 following a blunder by Health Secretary Martin Foley.

We also debunk claims that a protester in Melbourne was killed as a result of rubber bullets deployed by police, and bring you the verdict on a viral vaccination advertising campaign.

Anti-vaxxers enjoy a slip from Vic. Minister of Health

A slip of the tongue from the Victorian health minister has fed anti-vax activists who have shared images of Martin Foley falsely suggesting that 95 percent of hospitalized COVID-19 patients had been partially or fully vaccinated.

“Of the people who were hospitalized yesterday, 78 percent had been vaccinated and 17 had been partially vaccinated,” Foley said on Tuesday. COVID-19 press conference.

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Videos of Mr Foley’s statement have been viewed at least half a million times on Twitter.

“So 5% is not vaxxed? Wow,” wrote one Twitter user. “These numbers are the opposite of what we have” [been] told will happen.”

However, a spokeswoman for Foley confirmed to Fact Check that 78 percent of those in the hospital had not been vaccinated, while 17 percent had received only one dose. That means only 5 percent of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Victoria received a double shot.

His erroneous statement, meanwhile, has spread worldwide, with a US-based conservative website reporting the “truth” [was] are ignored” and that “95 percent of COVID patients in Victoria hospitals are vaccinated”.

“What’s the point of the vaccinations if 78% of the people occupying the hospital are fully vaccinated?” stated the article, which was shared more than 400 times on Facebook and reached more than 500,000 Twitter users.

Checking facts reported on a similar blunder in July when the director of health protection at NSW Health, Jeremy McAnulty, announced that “all but one” of more than 40 COVID-19 patients in intensive care had been vaccinated.

dr. McAnulty corrected himself just minutes later (in fact, all but one were unvaccinated), but the video of his original statement was widely shared anyway.

No, a Melbourne protester did not die after being hit by rubber bullets

A protester holds the Australian red flag during a protest
Protesters gathered in Melbourne for several days after the Andrews administration announced a shutdown of the construction industry.(

AAP: James Ross

)

Protests held in response to a vaccine mandate for construction workers in Victoria caused widespread disruption in Melbourne last week and saw police use rubber bullets, pepper spray, foam sticks and smoke bombs in an attempt to disperse the crowd.

But some images and videos that circulated on social media claiming to show injuries caused by such police measures were not what they seemed.

In one example, a video of a man covered in blood on the floor quickly went viral in anti-lockdown social media groups, with some even claiming that the man, Kyle Mitchell, had subsequently died.

“Kyle Mitchell, of Melbourne, Victoria, who was one of the protesters who took part in the Melbourne shutdown and pro-choice demonstrations, has reportedly died of injuries sustained in the Victoria shooting,” reads a widely circulated Facebook -message.

“This is NOT about health or safety! Killing unarmed civilians exercising their free speech is a disgrace!”

But while Mr Mitchell had attended the protests, he confirmed on Facebook that he was alive and that his injuries had not been sustained in an incident involving the police. Rather, they were the result of a “quarrel with a shop owner”.

The Daily Mail continues reported that Mr Mitchell’s friends and other witnesses said he had attempted to steal from a bottle shop and had been “blinded” in an ensuing scuffle.

Meanwhile, fact-checkers at Lead Stories have discovered that a number of graphic photos allegedly showing the protesters’ wounds are unrelated to the Melbourne rallies.

The three analyzed photos were all years old and were from Buenos Aires and the US cities of Ferguson, Missouri, and Louisville, Kentucky.

Fun funeral home’s amusing ‘ad’ is fake

An image of a truck carrying an anti-vaccination message apparently written by a funeral home has been debunked by fact-checkers who discovered it was in fact a pro-vaccination stunt by an advertising company.

The truck, which was spotted in the US state of North Carolina, bore the slogan “Don’t get vaccinated.” The message was purportedly endorsed by “Wilmore Funeral Homes”.

But a visit to the undertaker’s website, which also had a link posted on the truck, brought readers to a single page encouraging people to get pricked.

“Get vaccinated now,” the page reads. “If not, see you soon.”

Wilmore Funeral Homes Doesn’t Really Exist, Fact Checkers On PolitiFact, the Quinta and Snopes explained.

“The photos showed a real truck. But there was no funeral home that wanted to monetize the deaths of Americans who have not been vaccinated against the corona virus,” PolitFact reported.

“It was actually a pro-vaccine campaign created by a North Carolina advertising agency.”

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That ad agency, BooneOakley, confirmed his involvement on Twitter, with the president of the company against the Washington Post that the campaign was deliberately provocative in an effort to spread a pro-vaccination message.

“Personally, we felt that this was a cause we believed in,” he told the Post, “and we need to use our resources for the common good.”

From Washington, DC

US President Joe Biden gets a vaccine shot
How will US President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandates hold up in court?(

AP: Evan Vucci

)

In an effort to boost stagnating vaccination rates, US President Joe Biden recently announced that all companies with 100 or more employees should require vaccinations or weekly tests for their employees.

But according to fact-checkers at CNN’s Facts First have signaled to a number of lawmakers in Republican states, including Arizona, South Dakota and Georgia, the intention to file lawsuits against the plan, which could affect as many as 100 million employees.

So, how are Mr Biden’s mandates expected to hold up in court?

As CNN explained, the plan relies on the ability of the U.S. Department of Labor to issue (under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970) a “temporary emergency standard” to protect workers exposed to “serious danger.”

“However, that power is rarely used and previous instances have been challenged in court,” the fact-checkers said.

“Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, this authority had not been used since 1983, when the courts abolished a temporary emergency standard for asbestos, according to a July 2021 report from the Congressional Research Service.”

Legal experts contacted by CNN said the legality of the mandates would depend on whether the COVID-19 pandemic poses a “serious danger” to workers.

According to one expert, the pandemic was arguably the “strongest justification for using a temporary emergency standard that” [the act had] seen in its 50-year history”. But another said it was likely that only one objection from a judge would stop the practice.

However, a third expert pointed to a 1905 Supreme Court case that found there was no constitutional right to circumvent a vaccination mandate imposed to protect the community.

“That 1905 Supreme Court decision is seen as the most pertinent case in support of the legality of vaccine mandates,” explains CNN.

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