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Fact-checking Dr. Stock’s COVID-19 claims at Indiana school board meeting

Claims about the COVID-19 vaccine and virus made by an Indiana doctor before a school board have gone viral. Not all are accurate.

At an August 6 school board meeting in Hancock County, Indiana, Dr. Dan Stock spoke before the Mt. Vernon Community School Corporation board and made several claims about the COVID-19 vaccine and virus to dispute mandatory vaccination and mask policies.

Clips from the board meeting have gone viral, posted across mainstream and non-mainstream channels. On YouTube, the video from the entire school board meeting had more than 580,000 views, as of Aug. 11. 

A seven-minute clip of Stock speaking at the meeting had more than 720,000 views on YouTube.

Clips from the meeting were posted dozens of times across Bitchute, an alternative to YouTube, and have thousands of engagements across Facebook, including from Indiana Rep. John Jacob. Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan also shared a YouTube link on Facebook.

VERIFY broke down some claims Stock used as evidence against mandatory vaccinations and mask mandates. 

THE QUESTION

Is the coronavirus “spread by aerosol particles which are small enough to go through every mask”?

Stock made this claim about 15 minutes into the school board meeting.

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This needs context.

This is partly true, but needs context. COVID-19 can be transmitted through larger droplets, or they can “dehydrate and linger as ‘droplet nuclei’ in the air where they behave like an aerosol,” according to the New England Journal of Medicine. The aerosols could still pass through a mask, but masks slow the spread of the coronavirus.

WHAT WE FOUND 

Dr. Payal Kohli, with the University of Colorado Anschutz medical campus, told VERIFY the claims Stock made were partly true. 

“There’s two ways in which the virus spreads through the air. One is through large droplets, these are large droplets when we talk or laugh or sing, that small little bits of saliva come out, those usually tend to fall kind of closer to the ground. The other is the smaller aerosols,” Kohli said. 

“Think of it like a suspended virus particle in the air, almost like smoke, and it just kind of floats around. So the simple cloth masks are actually quite effective at preventing droplet transmission, because they catch those droplets, number one, so they prevent you from emitting them out to somebody else. And then number two, they serve as a barrier of protection from somebody else receiving those droplets,” Kohli said. 

“Now, just like with cigarette smoke, you could be wearing a mask and still smell the cigarette smoke because those aerosols, which can suspend in the air, can get through the simple surgical mask. But the N-95 respirators do offer superior protection against both aerosols as well as those droplets,” she continued.

MORE FROM VERIFY: Yes, masks help prevent the spread of COVID-19

THE QUESTION

Can COVID-19 vaccines cause the immune system to “become deranged”?

Stock made this claim about 16 minutes into the school board meeting.

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This is misleading.

Immune derangement is the “small risk” of your immune system “misbehaving” after getting a vaccine, Kohli told VERIFY. There is a very small chance of this happening, and can happen with any vaccine.

WHAT WE FOUND

Kohli said in a very small percentage of people, the immune system can “overreact or misbehave slightly” after receiving a vaccination. For example, she said, a very small percentage of people who received a vaccination suffered from auto-immune conditions or myocarditis. 

“But the likelihood of that happening, particularly with this vaccine, which has now been given to 2.3 billion people, and we've only seen a very, very, very tiny signal occurring and select populations is very, very low,” Kohli said.

According to a July 13 release from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, after 12.5 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines were administered, there were 100 cases of Guillain–Barré Syndrome (GBS) reported. 

“Each year in the United States, an estimated 3,000 to 6,000 people develop GBS. Most people fully recover from the disorder. GBS has also been observed at an increased rate associated with certain vaccines, including certain seasonal influenza vaccines and a vaccine to prevent shingles,” the release said. 

“No similar signal has been identified with the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines. FDA continues to work with its partner in vaccine safety surveillance, the CDC, to monitor reports of GBS following vaccination with the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine. Importantly, the FDA has evaluated the available information for the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine and continues to find the known and potential benefits clearly outweigh the known and potential risks,” the FDA said.

MORE FROM VERIFY: Yes, warnings for Guillain-Barre syndrome are similar to flu vaccines but require context

THE QUESTION

Can COVID-19 cause antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE) or vaccine-enhanced disease (VED), which would cause a vaccinated person to have a more severe disease if caught?

Stock made this claim about 17 minutes into the school board meeting.

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This is false.

There is no evidence to support claims a vaccinated person catches a more severe case of the coronavirus. 

WHAT WE FOUND

Antibody-dependent enhancement (ADE) is “extremely rare” and occurs when “certain antibodies make it easier for viruses to get into cells,” according to University of Nebraska Physician Nada A. Fadul.  

Fadul addressed claims ADE is associated with the COVID-19 vaccine in a July article published on the university’s website. Fadul said if the COVID-19 vaccine caused ADE, people who are vaccinated would have more severe disease. 

“This is not happening. On the contrary, people who are vaccinated typically have very mild disease or none at all,” Fadul said. 

Dr. Gabriel T. Bosslet said if Stock made these claims, he doesn’t understand ADE or is purposely trying to mislead people. 

“It happens. It doesn't happen with this vaccine. How do we know? It's quite simple. It doesn't happen with this vaccine because if it happened with this vaccine, people who were previously vaccinated when they got COVID-19, would get far sicker than if they'd never been vaccinated, the hospital through that wall would be filled with vaccinated people with severe disease,” Bosslet told TV station WTHR.

“That is not what we're seeing. The hospitals are not filled with vaccinated people. The hospitals are filled almost exclusively with people who have not had the vaccine. And so this notion of antibody-dependent enhancement sounds super smart, because it does exist. But to say that it happens with this vaccine is either a gross misunderstanding of the term in general, or just frank disinformation to scare people.”

According to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), there has not been a single case of ADE. 

THE QUESTION

Is it true vaccines do not stop infection? 

Stock made this claim about 18 minutes into the school board meeting, when he said “no vaccine … ever stops infection."

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This needs context.

Stock’s claim that no vaccine ever “stops infection” needs context. There isn’t a single vaccine that is 100% efficacious, meaning they stop infection some of the time, but not all of the time. 

WHAT WE FOUND

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “all COVID-19 vaccines currently available in the United States are effective at preventing COVID-19 as seen in clinical trial settings,” and research shows growing evidence “mRNA COVID-19 vaccines offer similar protection in real world conditions.”

But, the vaccines aren’t quite 100% effective. In a release from Pfizer-BioNTech, the vaccine was 95.4% effective against COVID-19. Moderna announced the vaccine was “greater than 90% efficacy against cases of COVID-19 and more than 95% against severe cases.” The CDC reported the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was 66.3% effective in clinical trials.

“What's interesting about vaccine efficacy is that it doesn't function in a bubble. So vaccine efficacy is highly dependent upon how much infection you have in your community,” Kohli said.  

“So when you have high rates of infection in the community, the vaccines don't work as well. And then when the infection rates are lower, the vaccine efficacy in terms of preventing infection goes up. It's also obviously dependent on our behaviors,” she said. 

THE QUESTION

Is the vaccine responsible for the current spike in COVID-19 cases?

At about 19 minutes into the meeting, Stock said: “With this vaccine that supposedly was going to make all of this go away, but it suddenly managed to make an outbreak of COVID-19 develop in the middle of the summer when vitamin D levels are at their highest.”

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This is false.

No, the vaccine has not caused a recent spike in COVID-19 cases.

WHAT WE FOUND

Dr. Payal Kohli told VERIFY that vitamin D does support immune function, but that has nothing to do with the recent rise in cases. The rise in cases is because the Delta variant is more contagious than the alpha strain. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on August 6 said: “Most U.S. states and jurisdictions are experiencing substantial or high levels of community transmission fueled by the spread of the highly contagious B.1.617.2 (Delta) variant. COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths continue to increase, especially in communities with lower vaccination coverage..”

MORE FROM VERIFY: Yes, at least 95% of people currently hospitalized for COVID-19 are unvaccinated

THE QUESTION

Is Ivermectin, Vitamin-D and/or Zinc an approved treatment for COVID-19?

Stock mentions about 20 minutes into the video that he had successfully treated 15 patients with this antibiotic cocktail

THE SOURCES

THE ANSWER

This is false.

No, that treatment plan has not been approved by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) or the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC). 

WHAT WE FOUND

Ivermectin is not approved for use in treating or preventing COVID-19 in humans, the FDA warned. 

“Ivermectin tablets are approved at very specific doses for some parasitic worms, and there are topical (on the skin) formulations for head lice and skin conditions like rosacea. Ivermectin is not an anti-viral (a drug for treating viruses),” according to the FDA.

Kohli said zinc and Vitamin D can be used to bulk up immune function, but there isn’t scientific evidence that exists to date that supports the use of those two drugs, along with ivermectin, to treat COVID-19. 

MORE FROM VERIFY: No, Ivermectin is not FDA-approved for treating or preventing COVID-19

THE QUESTION

Is it true that people who have recovered from COVID-19 “get no benefit from vaccinations at all?”

Stock made the claim at about 21 minutes into the video. 

THE SOURCES 

THE ANSWER

This is false.

No, a study in the United States shows individuals who had COVID-19 and are unvaccinated are more at risk of contracting the virus again. 

WHAT WE FOUND 

Dr. Beau M. Ances, with Washington University and a member of the American Neurological Association, told VERIFY the chance for a vaccinated individual to catch COVID-19 or variants is “significantly reduced.”

“At Washington University in St. Louis, we are having a large uptick in the number of individuals with COVID coming into our hospital, and it is primarily those individuals who have not been vaccinated versus those that have been vaccinated,” Ances said. 

“That doesn’t mean that everybody who gets vaccinated is not going to still not have it,” he said. “And we know there have been outbreaks that have been present, but the overall morbidity and mortality of those individuals is significantly reduced.”

Dr. Gabriel T. Bosslet with the Indiana University School of Medicine told TV station WTHR the claim Stock made holds no merit. 

“All the studies are that people who previously had COVID-19, when you measure antibody levels before and after the vaccine, it goes up,” said Bosslet. “So I have no clue where [Dr. Stock’s] data comes from. And frankly, that defies all logic.” 

“What I would tell people is: if you hear stuff like this, that runs completely counter to everything that the scientists and physicians have been telling you for the last 18 months, you need to talk to your doctor and bounce this off of other sources…you need to go and talk to other physicians, not just people who are going to confirm your prior beliefs,” he told WTHR.

TV station WTHR contributed to this story.

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