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Tweet attributed to Australian health officer is fake

January 20, 2022 GMT

CLAIM: The chief health officer in New South Wales, Australia, posted a tweet on Jan. 15 that said: “Great result from the children’s roll-out, only 3 deaths linked and 106 adverse reactions out of 377000 vaccines. I would say that is a better result than expected.”

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The tweet was fabricated. Dr. Kerry Chant, New South Wales’ chief health officer, never made any social media posts with this statement, a NSW Health spokesperson confirmed to The Associated Press. The health department also said the information in the fake post is incorrect.

THE FACTS: Several social media users this week shared what they claim is a screenshot of a tweet from New South Wales’ top health official, in which she makes flippant remarks about the COVID-19 vaccine rollout for children.

The fake tweet attributed to Chant appeared on both Twitter and Instagram, and stated: “Great result from the children’s roll-out, only 3 deaths linked and 106 adverse reactions out of 377000 vaccines. I would say that is a better result than expected.”

One Twitter user shared the fake screenshot, saying: “I dont Know about Dr Kerry Chant But I’ll never think even the death of 1 child would be seen as a better result than I would have expected. Wonder Why she deleted this?”

But NSW Health confirmed the tweet in the image was not real.

“NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant did not author the Tweet or the Instagram post attributed to her and the information contained in both of them is incorrect,” according to a NSW Health spokesperson.

The falsified image also displays several signs that it is not authentic. The fonts and layout, including spacing errors, do not conform to those typically used on the Twitter platform. Additionally, some of the features, such as the blue “verified” checkmark, the date and the account holder’s name, are out of place.

As of Thursday, the Twitter account for the New South Wales chief health officer has been taken down and the page displays the message: “This account doesn’t exist.” Some fringe blogs falsely claimed that this proved the account had been suspended for posting the tweet.

NSW Health denied that was the case, saying it temporarily deactivated the account to halt the spread of additional misinformation. Twitter’s account notices page confirms the message comes up when an account owner deactivates their profile.

“The official @NSWCHO Twitter account has been temporarily deactivated to prevent further edited imagery being shared to spread vaccine misinformation,” the agency stated. “NSW Health is urging people to use trusted and credible sources of information to inform them about the most up to date COVID-19 information in NSW.”

The agency added that the COVID-19 vaccines available in Australia “are safe and very effective at reducing the risk of serious illness and death.”

Kids 5 to 11 became eligible for Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine in Australia on Jan. 10, meaning children in that age group have not yet received their second dose. New South Wales reported that as of Thursday, just over 19% of children in this age range have received their first dose. Data on any reactions are not yet publicly available.

According to the Australian government’s official data, more than 73% of children 12 to 15 have been fully vaccinated, with about 3,000 reports of adverse reactions after vaccination among the group. The most commonly reported reactions were mild and temporary, including chest pain, headache, dizziness, nausea and fever.

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This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.