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The 5 most-read COVID-19 VERIFY stories in 2021

The coronavirus pandemic impacted all facets of life for people around the world in 2021. Here are the COVID-19 stories you read the most this year.

From vaccine mandates for federal workers to new travel protocol to claims the COVID-19 vaccines contained a magnetic microchip, the VERIFY team fact-checked dozens of claims about the coronavirus this year. 

To look back on 2021, the VERIFY team reviewed which COVID-19 stories you read the most. Here’s a look at the top five stories:

#5: No, you can't sue Pfizer or another manufacturer if you get a COVID-19 vaccine injury, but you can file for compensation

In August, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine became the first vaccine in the United States to receive full approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It also marked the FDA’s fastest vaccine approval ever.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), side effects after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine are typically mild and short-lived. But for months, many people asked whether they can bring a lawsuit against a COVID-19 vaccine manufacturer if they were to have a severe reaction, like injury or death, after getting vaccinated. 

We verified that you can’t sue a manufacturer if you get a COVID-19 vaccine injury. However, you can file for benefits under the Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program (CICP).


#4: No, the COVID-19 vaccine does not contain a magnetic microchip

In May, a series of viral videos claimed to show a magnet sticking to the skin of a vaccinated person’s arm near the site of their injection. Some people on social media claimed these videos were proof that the COVID-19 vaccine contains a magnetic microchip. 

Dr. Robert Brodell with the University of Mississippi Medical Center told VERIFY it would be impossible for the vaccine to contain enough magnetic properties to cause a magnet to stick to human skin. 

“There are metals around us and metals in our body, but I just can’t imagine there is even a small amount of trace metal that would be in a vaccine,” Brodell said. “You couldn’t see it — if you hold up a vaccine you see through the vial — there just can’t be particles of metal big enough to make that happen.”


#3: No, there is no evidence the COVID-19 vaccine spike protein is ‘cytotoxic’

Social media posts in June suggested the spike protein created in people’s bodies after receiving the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA COVID-19 vaccines was “cytotoxic” — meaning the protein kills cells in the body. 

In a tweet shared thousands of times, Dr. Robert Malone, who identifies himself as the inventor of mRNA vaccines, wrote: "The SARS-CoV-2 spike protein is cytotoxic. That is a fact. Who says so? Multiple peer-reviewed references. The Salk Institute. It is the responsibility of the vaccine developers to demonstrate that their expressed version is not toxic. Show us.” 

We checked with our sources, including a cell biologist, microbiologist and an infectious disease doctor, and they helped us VERIFY that there is no evidence the spike protein in the COVID-19 vaccines is cytotoxic. 


#2: No, you don’t have to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to fly in the US

Following a year of lockdowns brought on by the pandemic, many people were itching to get out of their houses. By late June, a majority of the U.S. adult population was fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and some were considering flying for the first time since the pandemic began — that meant learning new rules about air travel safety.

On June 20, about 2.1 million people went through a TSA checkpoint, marking one of the busiest travel days in the U.S. since the onset of the pandemic. Around that time, VERIFY viewer Frances H. asked: Do you have to be vaccinated to fly on a plane? 

While the CDC recommends people delay travel until they’re fully vaccinated, being vaccinated is not a requirement for flying within the U.S. However, for international travel, some countries may require visitors to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to gain entry.


#1: No, President Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers does not apply to members of Congress and their staff

The VERIFY Team’s most-read COVID-19 story of 2021 impacted nearly two million federal workers. 

On Sept. 9, President Joe Biden introduced his action plan to get Americans out of the COVID-19 pandemic as the highly transmissible delta variant spread across the country. 

Biden signed two executive orders requiring all federal employees and federal contractors to be vaccinated. A VERIFY viewer asked if these orders also applied to members of Congress and their staff. 

We reached out to multiple sources for this story, including the Congressional Institute, and they told us Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers does not apply to members of Congress and their staff. The mandate only applies to federal workers in the executive branch of the federal government. 

Members of Congress, which includes the House of Representatives and the Senate, fall under the legislative branch of government. The judicial branch, which includes the Supreme Court, is also exempt from Biden's mandate.


More from VERIFY: The 5 most-read VERIFY stories in 2021

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