An Injection of Common Sense

By Rich Handley

A new video currently circulating falsely claims COVID-19 vaccines will contain RFID chips intended to track everyone who receives them.

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As poet Alexander Pope wrote, “A little learning is a dangerous thing.” The meaning behind his insightful words: those who share their views about a given topic without actually understanding it can create dangerous scenarios, as they can easily mislead others who also know little about the subject. On a regular basis, we’ve seen how the uninformed can rile up those with equally little knowledge. For proof of this, look no further than the baseless claims being disseminated that the U.S. Presidential election was stolen, and how easily people are being manipulated into believing that lie.

In the RFID sector, this has happened more than once. Back when I joined the RFID Journal team in 2005, one topic that editor Mark Robert often had to address in his editorials was the notion, spread by fearmongering groups, that RFID technology posed a threat to privacy and civil rights. The last fifteen years have pretty much disproved that claim, since RFID has not been used to infringe on individuals’ privacy. More ridiculous were accusations that RFID numbers corresponded with the biblical “Mark of the Beast.” Mark’s first name being what it is, I’m sure, helped to fuel that nonsense.

When it comes to privacy infringement and religious-based fearmongering, the little learning on the part of those perpetuating the myths wasn’t overly damaging in the end. Few truly embraced the idea that radio frequency identification was the work of the Devil, and as more people have become aware of what RFID is and how it works, the fear that it might be used to spy on us has become less pervasive.

A new online video, though, has given new meaning to Pope’s proverb. The video, which is going viral on Facebook, claims the impending COVID-19 vaccines will secretly contain RFID chips that will be injected into everyone at the time of vaccination so governments can thereafter monitor citizens’ movements. This is simply untrue. There are numerous other technologies you use every day that could more easily track your movements than RFID—and, in fact, are already doing so. If the government wanted to track you everywhere, it’s not likely RFID would be the tech of choice.

An article published last week on Reuters, titled “Fact check: RFID microchips will not be injected with the COVID-19 vaccine, altered video features Bill and Melinda Gates and Jack Ma,” explains how the video selectively combines out-of-context and manipulated footage in an effort to scare people into declining the vaccine once it’s made publicly available in the coming months. This goes beyond being provably false and patently ridiculous—it poses a danger to human lives on a potentially alarming scale.

Anyone who refuses to get vaccinated out of an unfounded fear of spending their lives with an RFID chip hidden in their bodies will not only remain at risk of illness but also pose a continued health hazard to others. If those individuals contract COVID-19, their lack of vaccination could result in further deaths if they were to infect those unable to receive the vaccines for medical reasons. In this case, a little learning isn’t just a dangerous thing. It can be downright deadly, especially when those who disseminate what little they’ve learned are motivated not by mere ignorance, but by a malevolent desire to actively misinform.

So what’s the truth here? Well, RFID tags may indeed be used to track syringes, which is exactly the sort of use to which the technology is often applied since it facilities the unique identification of items. The chips will enable healthcare providers to confirm that the syringes and the vaccinations they contain have not expired and are not counterfeit, in order to ensure the safety of those being vaccinated. At no time has anyone involved in creating, distributing or promoting the vaccines ever said or implied an RFID chip would be injected into the human body along with the vaccine. The chips, if companies elect to utilize them, will remain on the syringes, not enter anyone’s bloodstream. This is a matter of inventory management and safety precautions, not Big Brother.

COVID-19 has had a staggering death toll throughout 2020, and the fact that some people are becoming re-infected following their recovery illustrates why waiting for a mythical herd immunity to save us will not be sufficient in stemming the coronavirus’s spread. Vaccines will be vital tools in preventing thousands—maybe millions—of deaths and returning our civilization to some semblance of what had passed for normalcy prior to the outbreak.

The creators of this blatantly false video are guilty of ignorance (a little learning) at best, or of intentional fearmongering (a dangerous thing) at worst. Don’t buy into it. Take the vaccine if you have no medical complications preventing you from doing so. You’ll be keeping yourself safe, along with those you know and love, and even those you’ll never know but whom you’ll pass on the street and in stores. A little learning may be a dangerous thing, but a little common sense saves lives.

Rich Handley has been the managing editor of RFID Journal since 2005. Outside the RFID world, Rich has authored, edited or contributed to numerous books about pop culture.