August 12, 2021

In a video from a school board meeting gone viral, an Indiana family doctor claims that this summer’s surge in COVID-19 cases is caused by COVID-19 vaccines.

More specifically, Dr. Dan Stock blames “antibody mediated viral enhancement,” a phenomenon he claims the vaccines caused.

The video, shared in Facebook posts like this one, 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.)

Antibody-dependent enhancement, as it is more commonly known, is a real but rare phenomenon in which people who are vaccinated can experience more severe symptoms if they are later infected by a virus.

What has borne out this summer is the opposite of what Stock claims — the vast majority of people who are hospitalized because of COVID-19 or die from it have not been vaccinated.

“There is no evidence that (antibody-dependent enhancement) is responsible for this surge,” said Dr. David Relman, a professor in medicine, microbiology and immunology at Stanford University.

“All epidemiological data on this surge from across the United States and the world clearly show that this surge is happening in non-vaccinated people,” he said. “Furthermore, vaccinated people with breakthrough delta variant infections have less severe disease than non-vaccinated people with delta infections.”

What Stock said

Stock spoke at the Aug. 6 meeting of the board of the Mt. Vernon Community School Corporation in Fortville, about 20 miles northeast of Indianapolis. He described himself as a “functional family medicine physician,” saying that means he is “specially trained in immunology and inflammation regulation.”

First, he said that recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Indiana Board of Health are “actually contrary to all the rules of science.” Then Stock made his claim about “the condition that is called antibody mediated viral enhancement. That is a condition done when vaccines work wrong.”

A vaccine that is “done the wrong way” for a respiratory virus, Stock continued, “causes the immune system to actually fight the virus wrong and lets the virus become worse than it would with native infection. And that is why you are seeing an outbreak right now.”

Stock, who sells supplements on his website, did not respond to a voicemail message. His voicemail greeting said research information he gave to the school board is on a blog for the Hancock County Indiana Patriots, a group that says it advocates for “liberty and other conservatives issues like life, guns, medical freedom, etc.”

The page lists 21 documents, but none of them address his claim about antibody-dependent enhancement and the COVID-19 surge.

COVID-19 hitting the unvaccinated

Melissa Brown, a professor in microbiology/immunology at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said that people who are vaccinated, “if they get sick, generally have mild disease. If (antibody-dependent enhancement) were playing a major role, we would expect the vaccinated to be sicker.”

The reason for the new outbreaks is the delta variant is much more contagious, “so, it is spreading like wildfire in unvaccinated individuals — not in vaccinated people.”

Some statistics to consider:

  • More than 164 million people in the United States had been fully vaccinated and, based on reports from 49 U.S. states and territories, there were 7,525 breakthrough cases in which the person was hospitalized or died, according to the latest figures from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That comes out to less than one-hundredth of 1%.
  • According to the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation, among 25 states that report data on breakthrough cases, hospitalization rates among fully vaccinated people ranged from effectively 0% to 0.06%; and death rates ranged from effectively 0% to 0.01%.
  • Seven states, including some with the lowest rates of people who are fully vaccinated, accounted for about half of new cases and hospitalizations in the previous week, the White House said at a briefing Aug. 5. They include Florida (49.7% fully vaccinated), Texas (44.6%), Missouri (42.3%), Arkansas (37.7%), Louisiana (37.7%), Alabama (35%) and Mississippi (35.2%). As of Aug. 10, according to Mayo Clinic, 50.5% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated.

Dr. Matthew Laurens, a pediatrics professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and a faculty member of its Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health, said people who are vaccinated “are much less likely to experience enhanced disease that would cause them to be hospitalized, admitted to intensive care, or die.

“We also have evidence that the delta variant is more likely to spread in communities with low vaccination rates, which provides additional proof that vaccines are not enhancing virus spread but are actually slowing it down.”

Our ruling

A doctor in a viral video says the surge in COVID-19 cases is caused by “antibody mediated viral enhancement” from the COVID-19 vaccines.

There is no evidence that the rare phenomenon known as antibody-dependent enhancement, is causing a surge. In fact, evidence shows the opposite: that the vast majority of COVID-19 cases are occurring among people who are not vaccinated.

The post 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 PolitiFact’s fact checks here.

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