Fact check: Disappearing needle in COVID-19 vaccination video is standard equipment

The claim: A video shows a disappearing needle after a COVID-19 vaccination

New COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to drop in the U.S., as the number of partially vaccinated individuals reaches nearly 50% and those fully vaccinated stands at 39%, new data shows.

President Joe Biden’s goal of having 70% of American residents partially vaccinated by the Fourth of July holiday has been achieved by nine states, but others, mostly in the South, are lagging behind. 

Part of the problem is vaccine hesitancy, fueled especially by online misinformation. One persistent claim on social media is that COVID-19 vaccines are fake because of videos showing needles failing to appear out of a vaccinated person’s arm after a shot. 

“Look yall I knew it…” said a May 19 post sharing a video originally posted to TikTok on April 18 by user notoput. The video shows a curbside vaccination with a close-up as the syringe is pulled away from the vaccinated person’s arm after injection. No needle is visible, and the caption “Explanations needed!” is superimposed.

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USA TODAY has reached out to the Facebook user for comment. 

One comment under the Facebook post, which has received over 173,000 views, claimed the video was evidence of the vaccine “implanting” something into vaccine recipients.

Claims of microchips or other tracking devices supposedly contained in the COVID-19 vaccine have been previously debunked by USA TODAY. And this claim spotlighting the disappearing needle is misleading and needs context.

Needle is retractable

Videos similar to the one from TikTok have been circulating on social media since the COVID-19 vaccine rollout began in December. These videos have been investigated and debunked by fact-checking organizations such as Reuters and the Associated Press.   

So why does the needle seem to disappear? It’s a safety syringe containing a built-in retraction mechanism, which helps prevent accidental needlestick injuries and infection of either the patient or the health care provider delivering the shot.

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Safety needles are “required for vaccine administration in the United States per the Needlestick Safety and Prevention Act of 2000,” the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists says in a FAQ on optimizing COVID-19 vaccine preparation and safety. 

A duet video made by TikTok user bby.maite on April 21 in response to the April 18 video also demonstrates this mechanism: pushing down on the syringe’s plunger causes the needle to retract into the body of the syringe.

Our rating: Missing context

A video showing a needle disappearing after a COVID-19 vaccination is MISSING CONTEXT, because without additional information it could be misleading. The needle seen in the TikTok is a safety syringe containing a built-in mechanism that retracts the needle to prevent accidental needlestick injuries. It’s standard equipment for vaccines administered in the U.S.

Our fact-check sources:

  • U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, accessed May 26, COVID-19 Vaccinations in the United States 
  • USA TODAY, May 23, New US cases fall to numbers not seen in almost a year; ‘massive increases’ in eating disorders, expert says: Latest COVID-19 updates 
  • CNBC, May 24, Nine states have 70% of adults at least partially vaccinated against Covid as U.S. cases, deaths fall further 
  • Vox, May 19, The South could still become a summertime Covid-19 hot spot 
  • Rutgers Today, May 3, Rutgers Professor Testifies on the Role of Misinformation in Vaccine Hesitancy  
  • USA TODAY, May 12, Fact check: COVID-19 vaccines don’t cause magnetic reactions or contain tracking devices 
  • Reuters, Dec. 23, 2020, Fact check: Video shows retractable needle used for safety purposes, not ‘fake needle’ 
  • Associated Press, Dec. 17, 2020, BBC footage shows COVID-19 vaccination with retractable needle 
  • American Society of Health-System Pharmacists, accessed May 26, FAQ for Optimizing COVID-19 Preparation and Safety

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Our fact check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.

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