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Airlines debunk rumours vaccinated travellers won't be allowed to fly due to blood-clot fears

ABC Business logoABC Business 13/05/2021 RMIT ABC Fact Check
shape: RMIT ABC Fact Check presents the latest debunked misinformation on COVID-19. (RMIT ABC Fact Check) © Provided by ABC Business RMIT ABC Fact Check presents the latest debunked misinformation on COVID-19. (RMIT ABC Fact Check)

CoronaCheck is RMIT ABC Fact Check's weekly email newsletter, dedicated to fighting the misinformation infodemic surrounding the coronavirus outbreak.

You can read the latest edition below, and subscribe to have the next newsletter delivered straight to your inbox.

CoronaCheck #65

In this week's newsletter, we debunk claims that vaccinated people will be barred from flying because of blood-clot fears and investigate whether COVID-19 vaccines have been tested on animals.

We also fact check a "fact check" by Senator Matthew Canavan, and give our verdict on a claim from unlikely bedfellows Malcolm Turnbull and Kevin Rudd.

Airlines aren't banning vaccinated travellers

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce previously raised hackles with his suggestions that proof of vaccination against COVID-19 could become a requirement for international travel. But new claims spreading online suggest it may actually be those who are vaccinated who will be barred from flying.

"I heard from someone who has contacts inside the [unnamed] airline and they are now discussing that the injected should not be allowed to fly," one Facebook post reads.

"Because the injection creates clots and bleeding and that is life threatening — when it happens at several thousand meters altitude. So the airlines do not want to risk being sued and have deaths on board."

Both Qantas and Virgin Australia confirmed to Fact Check that no such bans were being considered.

In an email, a spokeswoman for Qantas said the airline had "never said anything about not allowing vaccinated travellers onboard" and pointed Fact Check to a November 2020 media release outlining the airline's vaccination policy.

A spokesman for Virgin Australia told Fact Check that the airline would "continue to consider relevant government and health advice around vaccination", making "any decisions in line with passenger and crew health and safety".

Meanwhile, Allen Cheng, director of the Infection Prevention and Healthcare Epidemiology unit at Alfred Health in Melbourne, told Fact Check that banning those people vaccinated against COVID-19 because of clotting risks "wouldn't make much sense".

According to Professor Cheng there are two types of clotting syndromes — "common" clots such as deep vein thrombosis and thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS).

Common clots, he explained, are associated with long periods of not moving, such as post-surgery hospitalisation and prolonged air travel.

TTS, on the other hand, is much less common and associated with specific medications, including the AstraZeneca vaccine. According to the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation, TTS may occur four to 20 days after vaccination.

"TTS is generally severe, tends to involve different locations in the body and occurs in the absence of recent air travel," Professor Cheng said.

"So AstraZeneca vaccination isn't thought to be a risk for common clots."

Yes, COVID-19 vaccines have passed animal testing

Claims that COVID-19 vaccines produced using messenger ribonucleic acid (or mRNA) have not passed trials in animals have been circulating online.

"No mRNA vac[cine] has ever made it to market due to failures (wide scale deaths) at animal trial stage," one Twitter user suggested.

"They've omitted the animal trials this time, got emergency use authorisation and you are the guinea pigs."

But research shows mRNA vaccines and therapies have produced favourable results in animal trials before being tested in humans.

Animal testing occurs in the preclinical phase of vaccine development. If animal testing results show a vaccine is safe and effective, it moves into the first stage of human trials, known as phase I clinical trials.

In July 2020, Moderna Therapeutics announced the publication of a preclinical study of their mRNA COVID-19 vaccine (mRNA-1273), which found that the vaccine triggered a "robust immune response and protection" against the novel coronavirus in non-human primates.

Meanwhile, preclinical data released this year for the Pfizer and BioNTech mRNA vaccine candidates (BNT162b1 and BNT162b2) found both caused "immune responses in mice and macaques".

Even before the creation of the COVID-19 vaccines, mRNA technology was being used in the development of various medical treatments, including vaccinations against influenza and the Zika virus.

In April 2017, interim data from a phase I trial for a Moderna influenza A vaccine, known as mRNA 1440, was published alongside the preclinical data of its testing on animals.

"We demonstrated that the [lipid nanoparticles]-based, modified-mRNA vaccine technology is able to generate robust and protective immune responses in mice, ferrets, and cynomolgus monkeys," the researchers concluded.

From Washington, D.C.

In a particularly meta case of fact checking in the US, PolitiFact this week deemed claims that the Washington Post Fact Checker had given up covering the presidency of Joe Biden to be false.

According to Republican Congresswoman Lauren Boebert, the paper had supposedly shut down its fact-checking division "because the President is a Democrat".

"THIS is why no one trusts the media," Ms Boebert tweeted.

But that's not quite right.

As PolitiFact explained, Glenn Kessler, editor and chief reporter for the Post's Fact Checker, recently announced that his team would no longer be maintaining a searchable database of fact checks on Mr Biden's claims due to the labour involved in the project.

"Maintaining the Trump database over four years required about 400 additional 8-hour days over four years beyond our regular jobs for three people," Kessler explained in a tweet.

"Biden is off to a relatively slow start but who knows what will happen. We will keep doing fact checks, just not a database."

Fact checking an LNP Senator's ‘fact check'

Queensland Liberal National Party Senator Matthew Canavan took to Twitter this week to issue his own "fact check" on the value of "homemakers".

In a meme shared by the Senator, a quote supposedly from The Chronicle of Narnia author C.S. Lewis, suggests "the homemaker has the ultimate career" and that "all other careers exist for one purpose only — and that is to support the ultimate career".

"Fact Check: True," Senator Canavan captioned the meme.

But the meme contains an error: the words were not exactly those of C.S. Lewis.

According to William O'Flaherty, author of The Misquotable C.S. Lewis: What He Didn't Say, What He Actually Said, and Why It Matters, the quote featured in the meme is similar to words found in a letter C.S. Lewis wrote to a woman named Mrs Johnson in 1955.

"While we don't have what she wrote, it's obvious from what Lewis penned that she was feeling overwhelmed at the work she was doing at home," O'Flaherty, who runs the Essential C.S. Lewis website, told Fact Check.

"He used the expression ‘housewife's work' and stated, ‘it is surely, in reality, the most important work in the world'. Then, after making additional comments to elaborate on his statement, he ended his thoughts by writing, ‘So your job is the one for which all others exist'."

O'Flaherty said he labelled this type of quote an "almost Lewis quote".

"Meaning, it is a paraphrase of something similar to what he actually wrote," he said.

"Thus, while not a real Lewis quotation, it does convey something Lewis would agree with."

And so, too, Senator Canavan.

Did Rudd and Turnbull get their facts straight?

In a recent opinion article published in The Guardian, former prime ministers Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull warned that Australia "remains dangerously at risk of the economic and environmental consequences that will come from the climate crisis barrelling towards us".

"With more than 70 per cent of Australia's trade now with countries committed to net zero, the prospect of carbon-border taxes being introduced — beginning with the European Union — also leaves us economically exposed," the pair wrote.

Fact Check this week found that claim to be a fair call.

At the time the article was published, 20 of Australia's 30 biggest trading partners had already committed to reaching net-zero emissions.

Together, these 20 countries account for 71.6 per cent of Australia's total two-way trade (all exports and imports).

Measured by exports alone, the proportion is even higher.

Of Australia's top 30 export destinations, 17 countries have announced commitments to net-zero emissions, accounting for 74.2 per cent of the total.

On both measures, the numbers are slightly higher again once smaller trade partners — those inside the European Union but outside the top 30 — are included.

Edited by  with Lauren Basto

Got a fact that needs checking? Tweet us @ABCFactCheck or send us an email at factcheck@rmit.edu.au

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