Not Real News

An electron microscope image shows the virus that causes COVID-19. Stories circulating online incorrectly assert that a study from the Francis Crick Institute in London found that Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine destroys a type of white blood cell, called the T cell, and weakens the immune system. On the contrary, the vaccine generates a strong T cell response and boosts immunity, according to medical experts.

CLAIM: A study from the Francis Crick Institute in London found that Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine destroys a type of white blood cell called the T cell and weakens the immune system.

THE FACTS: The vaccine doesn’t destroy T cells or weaken the immune system. On the contrary, it generates a strong T cell response and boosts immunity, according to experts.

Articles spreading on social media this week misrepresent the Francis Crick Institute study, which looked at the ability of COVID-19 vaccines to produce neutralizing antibodies against viral variants and did not examine T cells.

“Our work to date has not studied T cells at all,” Francis Crick Institute researcher and study author Dr. David Bauer told The Associated Press in an email. “All research published to date shows that the Pfizer [and other] vaccines generate a strong, positive, protective T-cell response against SARS-CoV-2.”

Outside experts confirmed that the COVID-19 vaccines don’t destroy or damage T cells.

“There’s a lot of data that shows that the vaccines induce strong T cell responses that recognize the virus and probably lead to protection,” said Dr. Joel Blankson, a professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine who personally has studied T cell responses to COVID-19 vaccines.

The claim that the vaccines weaken the immune system is also false, Bauer confirmed. Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and others shows that the vaccines boost the immune response. The mRNA vaccines work by training the immune system to recognize the spike protein on the surface of the virus to generate an immune response.

The Francis Crick Institute study examined how antibodies generated by COVID-19 vaccines are able to neutralize new strains of the virus. Bauer and other experts confirm that getting the vaccine offers more protection against the delta variant than going without it.