October 15, 2021

Social media users are sharing a claim that — in a C-SPAN video of a public presentation — Dr. Anthony Fauci and other federal Health and Human Services Department officials plotted for a new flu virus.

The conservative Gateway Pundit website made the claim with this headline:

“EXPLOSIVE VIDEO Emerges of Fauci and HHS Officials Plotting for ‘A New Avian Flu Virus’ to Enforce Universal Flu Vaccination.”

The article was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

The claim is a gross misrepresentation of what the officials were talking about.

Similar claims were made by the conservative One America News Network in reporting on the video, and by social media users who shared clips of the video on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Gateway Pundit’s article cited an Oct. 4 “emergency broadcast” by Alex Jones’ InfoWars, a website known to air false news and conspiracy theories, which in turn cited the video.

The hourlong C-SPAN video, entitled “Universal Flu Vaccine,” is from an Oct. 29, 2019, panel discussion that included Fauci, a top HHS official who is also President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser; and Dr. Rick Bright, an immunologist and vaccine researcher who was then a top HHS official.

Among the topics they discussed was the quest for a “universal flu vaccine.”

The phrase “enforcing universal flu vaccination” in the Gateway Pundit headline gives the false impression that the goal of pursuing a universal flu vaccine is forced vaccination of all Americans.

But that’s not what “universal” means in this case.

As the panelists explained, ongoing research toward a universal flu vaccine is aimed at creating a vaccine with long-lasting protection against multiple flu strains that would eliminate the need for annual flu shots.

As the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the federal agency Fauci heads, puts it:

A key focus of NIAID’s influenza research program is developing a universal flu vaccine, or a vaccine that provides robust, long-lasting protection against multiple subtypes of flu, rather than a select few. Such a vaccine would eliminate the need to update and administer the seasonal flu vaccine each year and could provide protection against newly emerging flu strains, potentially including those that could cause a flu pandemic.

Fauci said during the session that viruses are “a continual moving target, from season to season,” unlike polio, smallpox and measles viruses. He described a prospective universal flu vaccine as “a vaccine that induces a response in the body to that part of the influenza that doesn’t change from season to season, from decade to decade or even that much when you get a pandemic.”

The panel discussion was not a plot for a new flu virus that could pave the way for forced vaccinations.

The headline also misrepresents the officials’ references to avian flu, a disease that infects birds but can pose a risk to humans. Avian flu was mentioned once, in the context of possible future advances in how vaccines are developed and delivered.

“It is not too crazy to think that an outbreak of a novel avian virus could occur in China somewhere, we could get the RNA sequence from that, beam it to a number of regional centers,” Bright said, adding: “The technology is there to be adapted and assembled to put into that futuristic view of a rapid response to an emerging novel threat.”

Our ruling

A headline widely shared on social media claimed that Fauci and U.S. health officials plotted “for a new avian flu virus to enforce universal flu vaccination.”

The claim broadly misrepresents what they were talking about. The video shows they didn’t discuss any such plot.

Fauci’s reference to a universal vaccine meant one that could provide long-lasting protection from multiple flu strains and eliminate the need for annual flu shots.

The claim is false and ridiculous. We rate it Pants on Fire!

This fact check was originally published by PolitiFact, which is part of the Poynter Institute. It is republished here with permission. See the sources for this fact check here and more of their fact checks here.

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Tom Kertscher is a contributing writer for PolitiFact. Previously, he was a fact-checker for PolitiFact Wisconsin.
Tom Kertscher

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