No, WHO didn't admit that COVID-19 vaccines can induce multiple sclerosis

By: Rahul Adhikari
June 7 2023

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No, WHO didn't admit that COVID-19 vaccines can induce multiple sclerosis


The Verdict False

A research paper listed on the WHO COVID-19 research database is being shared to claim that WHO admitted COVID vaccines can induce multiple sclerosis.

Claim ID bf5ab34d


Posts circulating on social media claim the World Health Organization (WHO) has admitted that COVID-19 can induce multiple sclerosis (MS). MS is a chronic neurological condition that affects the central nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord.

The claim is based on a paper titled "COVID-19 vaccination can induce multiple sclerosis via cross-reactive CD4+ T cells recognizing SARS-CoV-2 spike protein and myelin peptides," published in the Multiple Sclerosis Journal and listed in the WHO COVID-19 research database. Several users shared a screenshot of the paper to make the claim.

One such post on Facebook includes a 43-second video where a popular YouTuber named Dr. John Campbell says that WHO put out a release showing that there was a possible causal relation between COVID-19 vaccines and multiple sclerosis. The video includes a text overlay stating, "WHO report says Covid jabs may induce MS." Furthermore, a user on Twitter shared a screenshot of the paper and added a caption, "Look what the WHO is admitting to... Covid-19 vaccination can induce multiple sclerosis via cross-reactive CD4+ T cells recognizing SARS-CoV-2 spike protein and myelin peptides."

However, the claim is false. The WHO did not publish the paper, and an author of the non-peer-reviewed study says that there could be other factors for the onset of MS.

In Fact

We found that the viral video was taken from a 16-minute-long video by Campbell, who is known for spreading COVID misinformation. In this video, he claims that WHO has released a paper suggesting a possible link between the vaccine and multiple sclerosis. However, upon further research, we couldn't find any credible sources confirming that WHO has acknowledged the COVID-19 vaccine's potential to induce multiple sclerosis. It appears that a research paper listed in the WHO database was misinterpreted to make false claims. The organization did not release, approve, or endorse any statements regarding this matter.

The WHO research database is a comprehensive source of current literature on COVID-19. It gathers the latest international multilingual scientific findings and knowledge on the topic. The database lists research papers and literature on the coronavirus, but the listing does not imply approval or endorsement by the WHO. The WHO has issued a statement clarifying, "By listing publications in this database and providing links to external sites does not mean that WHO endorses or recommends those publications or sites, or has verified the content contained within them. The database has been compiled without warranty of any kind, either expressed or implied. The responsibility for the interpretation and use of publications included in this database lies with the reader. In no event shall WHO be liable for damages arising from its use."

Tarik Jašarević, a spokesperson for the WHO, told Logically Facts that there is currently no conclusive evidence establishing a direct link between multiple sclerosis (MS) and COVID-19 vaccination. The mentioned case-control study indicates a potential correlation, but further research is necessary as case-control studies only establish likely links between events and do not prove causation. Jašarević provided additional clarification, stating, "The study included reference to <20 cases of different vaccines belonging to multiple vaccine platforms (e.g. mRNA & Viral vector vaccines from different manufacturers) linked to cases of MS. This requires further study before drawing conclusions."

Associated Press (AP) also fact-checked a similar claim based on the same study. Roland Martin, a neurology professor at the University of Zurich and one of the research authors, told AP that based on the two patients the authors studied, the vaccine appeared to be related to MS. However, he added that the abstract was probably worded too strongly and there are multiple potential factors that contribute to MS and said he hoped that the usefulness of the vaccines would not be questioned as "there is no doubt that the risks for triggering MS are higher with the natural infection based on current data."

Further, Camille Gamboa, a spokesperson for Sage Publications, took to Twitter to clarify that these posts "misrepresent the findings and don't mention the reference was to a (non-peer-reviewed) conference abstract." In a statement to AP, which she posted a screenshot of in her tweet, Gamboa added that the research paper is not a published study but rather a non-peer-reviewed abstract presented at the European Committee for Treatment and Research in Multiple Sclerosis conference in 2022.

The Verdict

A research paper published on the WHO COVID-19 research database was misinterpreted, leading to false claims that WHO admitted the coronavirus vaccine can induce multiple sclerosis. The research paper was not published or endorsed by WHO and was itself a non-peer-reviewed abstract for a conference based on a study conducted on two individuals. Therefore, we have marked the claim as false.

The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to a lot of potentially dangerous misinformation. For reliable advice on COVID-19, including symptoms, prevention, and available treatment, please refer to the World Health Organization or your national healthcare authority.

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