In March, when a woman in Seattle volunteered for a COVID-19 vaccine trial, rumors immediately began circulating that she was a crisis actor who had received a fake vaccine. She is, in fact, real, and so is the prospective vaccine she got, as the Associated Press asserted in a follow-up story. In Oxford, England, another volunteer for a separate COVID-19 vaccine trial became the subject of a fake news story that purported she had died after a shot. She too was forced to clarify the situation: She is very much alive.
There is no COVID-19 vaccine, but there are already COVID-19 vaccine conspiracies. Even as vaccines for the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2 are being held up as the last hope for a return to normalcy, misinformation about them is spreading. A more fraught scenario for science communication is hard to imagine: a novel vaccine, probably fast-tracked, in the middle of a highly politicized and badly mishandled pandemic.