The claim: COVID-19 vaccine syringes with RFID chips will be used to track who received injections and the recipients’ locations
The federal government can track vaccine recipients with RFID technology, according to a Facebook claim by a conservative activist and blogger.
An edited version of an interview with Jay Walker, then-CEO of ApiJect Systems America Inc., was posted Dec. 9 to the Facebook page of Elizabeth Johnston. She named the video “Vaccine in Development with ‘optional’ tracking microchip.”
Walker was asked about “Project Jumpstart,” a temporary emergency program in conjunction with the Department of Health and Human Services and the Defense Department, during a May 22 interview with CBN News, a nonprofit news organization that describes itself on its YouTube channel as providing “The Christian Perspective.” Walker, who became the company’s executive chairman in July, said the project will ensure at least 100 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine by year’s end.
“Each of these devices that are injection have the capacity to also have a small chip,” Walker said of the prefilled syringes that will allow for mass manufacture of the vaccine. “What that chip does is it has the unique serial number for each dose.”
The serial numbers prevent counterfeiting and confirm the date of expiration, Walker said in the interview, adding that no personal or patient information is recorded on the optional tracking device. The tracking also would help public health officials know how many people had been vaccinated in a location when outbreaks occur, he said. At the time of the interview, the government had not decided whether to use the RFID option, he explained.
But Johnston’s selectively edited video summarizes part of Walker’s interview in text overlays, claiming the RFID chip gives “officials information on who has and has not been vaccinated” and “tracks the location of the patient so that officials can know where the vaccinated officials are.”
Johnston’s “social commentary” videos have “netted over 100 million views,” according to her website. A Dec. 14 repost of the edited Walker interview also went viral on Facebook.
USA TODAY reached out to Johnston for comment.
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What is ‘Project Jumpstart’?
In May, DOD and HHS announced a $138 million contract with ApiJect Systems to expand the manufacture of medical-grade injection devices in preparation for the COVID-19 vaccine, according to a May 12 press release.
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The contract, called “Project Jumpstart,” would create a high-speed supply chain for pre-filled syringes with RFID-tracking capabilities, according to the DOD.
Why does a syringe need RFID?
Tracking when and where vaccinations occur is essential for pandemic defense, according to Rapid Aseptic Packaging of Drugs Consortium, or RAPID.
The consortium was developed from the partnership between the federal government and ApiJect Systems to build U.S.-based high-speed manufacturing lines to make “up to 330 million pre-filled syringes per month,” according to its website.
With RFID technology, health officials can access real-time vaccination coverage maps and reports from around the country by scanning a Near Field Communication, or NFC chip.
“By scanning the chip on a cellphone app, the chip will transmit information about the drug’s expiration date and that it is not a counterfeit product,” Steven Hofman, Director of Media Relations for ApiJect Systems told USA TODAY.
“The chip will also transmit the location of the injectable’s use so that public health officials can monitor use numbers in a given geographic area, particularly hot spots or medical facilities. No personal information on the patient being injected is gathered by the chip or the cellphone app,” Hofman shared via email.
The anonymous, aggregated data is stored in a cloud database, according to RAPID. Hofman confirmed that the government has not decided whether to use the optional RFID feature.
The chip cannot “give officials information on who has and has not been vaccinated” or track patients’ locations, like the video implies.
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An injectable tracker?
Some commenters on Johnston’s video appeared to think the NFC chip was meant to be injected into the body.
“You’re not putting any chip in my body!” user Eddie Engel wrote.
More: Fact check: Americans won’t have microchips implanted by end of 2020
Hofman called such claims “complete fantasy.”
“The chip is not an injectable device,” he said. “It is like a barcode on a food item. The chip transmits information, it does not gather any. The chip is located on the outside of the container holding the vaccine.”
Our rating: Partly false
We rate this claim PARLTY FALSE, based on our research. An interview with the then-CEO of a company that manufactures pre-filled syringes was edited to make it appear as if COVID-19 vaccine recipients can be tracked with RFID technology.
It is true that COVID-19 vaccine syringes may include RFID chips to help track who has received the vaccine, check expiration dates and ensure a vaccine isn’t counterfeit. But patients who receive the vaccine cannot be tracked — as viewers are led to believe, based on the video’s comments — and private information is not stored on NFC chips affixed to syringes.
Our fact-check sources:
Elizabeth Johnston, accessed Dec. 16, “About Elizabeth Johnston”
U.S. Department of Defense, May 12, “DOD Awards $138 Million Contract Enabling Prefilled Syringes for Future COVID-19 Vaccine”
RAPID USA, accessed Dec. 16, “Introducing the RAPID Consortium: quickly manufacturing hundreds of millions of prefilled syringes immediately ready to save lives.”
RAPID USA, accessed Dec. 16, Brochure
Reuters, Dec. 14, “Fact check: COVID-19 vaccine labels would not microchip or track individuals, but serve logistical purpose”
USA TODAY, Aug. 1, “Fact check: Americans won’t have microchips implanted by end of 2020”
PolitiFact, Dec. 15, “No, chip on COVID-19 vaccine syringes would not be injected or track people”
CBN News, May 22, “How Gov Could Use RFID Chips When Millions of Americans Inject COVID-19 Vaccine”
USA TODAY, June 4, “Fact check: Feds buy syringes that may have RFID chips, but no evidence COVID-19 vaccination required”
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Syringes with RFID technology don’t track recipients