BlessWorld Foundation International

Affecting the World Through Health
A Global Health Initiative

COVID-19 Conspiracy Theories: Origins and Implications



A conspiracy theory is a term used to describe a logic that attempts to explain events or situations especially when people doubt the randomness of the event or suspect deception by influential and powerful groups. These groups often consist of wealthy and popular individuals such as politicians since the theories are usually politically motivated. The term has a negative connotation, since conspiracy itself is a negative word, and implies that the theory is based on misinformation, prejudice or insufficient evidence. Conspiracy theories are nothing new, ranging from disease outbreaks to election fraud, theories that claim to proffer explanations and solutions to societal issues abound. They exist almost everywhere- social media, television, and even conversations with friends and loved ones. Conspiracy theories may stem from the fact that when people feel threatened and out of control, they naturally want to feel more in control and bring order to the randomness by resorting to questionable explanations.

As expected, COVID-19 is  surrounded by several theories attempting to explain both the source and agenda of the virus. Although some theories are harmless or even funny, those related to medical health interventions, can be potentially dangerous and life-threatening. Below are  some popular conspiracies that may have shaped the public’s understanding and response to COVID-19:

  • COVID-19 was engineered in the laboratory:

 After World Health Organization confirmed that the outbreak had become a pandemic, conservative publications started linking the virus to China’s Wuhan Institute of Virology which studies coronaviruses. However, scientists agree that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, most likely occurred in nature and was not engineered. There is also no evidence that the virus accidentally escaped or evolved from other viruses found in the Wuhan Institute of Virology. This theory is malicious because it encouraged racist distrust of China and distracted Americans from actually addressing the pandemic.

  • COVID-19 is a side effect of 5G technology: 

In the early stages of the pandemic, the theory claiming an association between 5G high speed wireless technology and COVID-19 symptoms spread like wildfire across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Currently, there is no evidence that 5G radiation is dangerous to human health because the technology works on higher frequency wave lengths that don’t appear to penetrate human skin. Additionally, the outbreak has also occurred in locations where there is no 5G technology. This theory  seems to have been politically motivated and was dangerous because in early April 2020, protesters in the  United Kingdom set fire to 5G towers causing economic waste. 

  • COVID-19 is the same as the Flu

In the first few months of the pandemic when research was lacking and much was unknown about the virus, both public officials and media outlets compared symptoms of COVID-19 to seasonal influenza. The intentions of these comparisons may have been good- to calm the  public and  increase understanding of the rapidly spreading illness, however; it created the basis for conspiracy theorists to perpetuate the idea that COVID-19 was a hoax and just the same as flu. Well, now we know better- COVID-19 is much more deadly than the flu and must be given all the seriousness it deserves.

  • Masks are uncomfortable and do not  work:

The theory  that masks neither protect people from COVID-19 nor prevent its spread was borne out of public health miscommunication. To date, scientists and public health officials continue to educate the general public that masks- including cloth masks, are quite effective at preventing the transmission of COVID-19. This is because masks are made to filter the wearer’s potentially contagious respiratory droplets from entering  the air, and if there are droplets already in the air, it prevents the wearers  from inhaling  these droplets. Consequently, when two people who are interacting wear masks, they are potentially protecting one another effectively. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has since updated its guidance and guidelines on wearing masks.

  • COVID-19 vaccines are harmful and alters ones genetic code 

There have been several theories about COVID-19 vaccines; some were heard even before pharmaceutical companies began working on any vaccine. Most of the antagonism against COVID-19 vaccine is based on existing anti-vaccine sentiments, which view vaccines as unnatural or potentially harmful. Other attacks on the vaccines originate from religious groups and figures. Currently, the FDA has approved vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer under emergency use authorization. These vaccines use messenger RNA, which tells the body how to develop antibodies to fight COVID-19. It is important to note that this does not fundamentally change a person’s DNA. Moreover, these vaccines have been very effective in relieving the symptoms of COVID-19.

Conspiracy theories affect us all and exist in both traditional and modern societies, irrespective of demographics, political differences and social class. They may result  in significant limitations in public and global  health, usually encouraging resistance to vaccination  as in the case of COVID-19. More so, some theories have led to negative behaviours that led to outbreaks of preventable diseases and problems. Other effects of conspiracy theories include lack of confidence in scientific evidence,  promotion of extremist group and poor economic growth.

 It is impossible to  ban conspiracy theories and theorists, however, we can take practical steps to sift, investigate and verify information before we accept or share them. Additionally, social networks like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube have stepped up with more efforts to identify, label, and take down COVID-19 misinformation.

Comments are closed.