We Asked People Who Believe Vaccines Make Them ‘a Walking Magnet’: Why?

It’s a myth that proliferates even in one of the world’s most vaccinated countries, despite health experts consistently denying its plausibility.

Oct 15 2021, 8:50am

When Singaporean retiree Jeremy Kang received his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine in April, he was warned about possible side effects like headaches, low-grade fevers, muscle aches and even nausea. 

But he wasn’t at all prepared for what would happen next. According to Kang, he became “a walking magnet”. This, despite health experts repeatedly saying that such claims are not possible.

“It started with a strange tingling sensation I felt on my upper left arm where I received the jab, which developed into quite a severe pain that lasted for days,” Kang told VICE World News. “The sensation got stronger when I gripped metal objects like forks and spoons.” 

Also a staunch believer in the healing effects of traditional Chinese medicine, the 62-year-old father of two was initially reluctant to get himself vaccinated. But after seeing photos and videos on popular chat messaging apps documenting the effects of “vaccine magnetism”, he became curious and decided to rethink his decision. 

“Metal is one of the five main elements responsible for generating and building up energy within the body. It also releases toxins,” he said. “I felt that it wouldn’t hurt to have some of that in my body.” 

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Kang recently shared his striking claims with members of a thriving cult group on Telegram that call themselves SG The Magnetic Group. Set up recently in July, the group aims to “record and investigate” local cases of magnetic effects supposedly related to the vaccinations in Singapore. 

“Photos and videos don’t lie,” Kang said. “There are metals in the vaccines that we are not aware of which could make [one] magnetic. I’ve seen the results for myself and I know that I am not alone in believing it.” 

Initially driven by public hesitancy and conspiracy theories that suggested coronavirus vaccines contained metals and microchips implanted by governments to track people, claims that arose around May this year of “human magnetism” caused by the COVID-19 vaccines were quashed by doctors and quickly debunked by American health experts and scientists.

In June, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a statement on its website saying that there was “no truth” to the claims COVID-19 vaccines could produce electromagnetic fields within the human body. “Receiving a COVID-19 vaccine will not make you magnetic, including at the site of vaccination which is usually your arm,” the agency said. 

“Receiving a COVID-19 vaccine will not make you magnetic.”

But medical misinformation has now caught on in many other parts of the world, including Asia and now runs rampant and high in Singapore — despite it being one of the world’s most vaccinated countries with a fully inoculated rate of 83 percent. 

Many older persons in the country still remain hesitant about getting vaccinated despite active government efforts and campaigns to bring vaccines and even booster shots to them.

In a speech made in July, prime minister Lee Hsien Loong personally addressed concerns from older communities about vaccine side effects, reassuring them that they were “mostly not serious”. “You may feel unwell for a day or two, but you will be okay,” he said. “It’s just your body building up its immunity against COVID-19.” 

Lee added that his government was “trying hard” to reach some 200,000 unvaccinated citizens above the age of 60. “Even if you don’t go out much, you can still catch it from friends or family,” he warned. 

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While experts like medical scientist Septian Hartono say there is no evidence to support vaccine magnetism and microchip conspiracy theories, they warned that wider vaccine misinformation only served to hamper and undo the hard work and efforts of healthcare officials to educate the remaining percentage of people yet to be vaccinated.

“There will always be people unwilling to be vaccinated.”

“Even if Singapore’s population was 100 percent vaccinated, we would still see virus transmissions [but] that doesn’t mean we should not stop at the current 83 percentile,” Septian told VICE World News. 

“There will always be people unwilling to be vaccinated, especially seniors but we must continue to encourage more to get vaccinated.”

But it isn’t just older citizens showing vaccine hesitancy. The bizarre belief that COVID-19 vaccines will make you magnetic is also catching on with younger Singaporeans on chat apps and social media. Videos of people sticking metal objects to their bodies after recovering from their vaccines continue to rack up millions of views on platforms like TikTok. 

On the chat app Telegram, popular among Singaporeans for its group-based chat rooms, articles and claims are shared widely in anti-vaxx groups. One post, accompanied by pictures, boldly claimed that an unvaccinated local man had experienced magnetic effects on his chest and forehead by being around vaccinated family members, but was soon “cured” by taking ivermectin and various health supplements.

Another case that was read more than 10,000 times on the app claimed that an unvaccinated man who was living with two vaccinated family members started experiencing “mild magnetic waves” and detected “radio frequencies” in both his knees. 

Also proving popular in the channel was a post featuring local celebrity actor Aaron Aziz. It linked to a video he posted to his official Facebook page of himself resting after getting vaccinated and apparently managing to stick a fork onto his forearm. “Believe it or not,” the actor wrote, much to the delight of magnetism believers. 

Lim Jee Peng, a 28-year-old unvaccinated and self-professed conspiracy theorist, told VICE World news that he had been seeing vaccine magnetism claims for months and staunchly believes that people above the age of 35 “were more receptive” to this effect. “I think it has something to do with the fact that the technology is still very new and can change one’s genetic makeup,” he said. “There’s really no way of telling vaccines’ long-term side effects.” 

But there is a simple and proven scientific explanation for this according to Khoo Yoong Khean, a doctor and healthcare administrator working in Singapore. It wasn’t the presence of supposed metallic materials in vaccines that were bringing about so-called magnetism but the force of friction.

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“Our skin, especially if smooth and hairless, creates a friction force which enables objects to stick,” he told VICE World News. “What we are actually seeing is just friction.”

“What we are actually seeing is just friction.”

He added that none of the vaccines contained any metallic materials and were mostly made up of “lipids, salts, sugars” and an mRNA unit or a modified virus.

“Therefore, metal objects can’t stick to a human because the vaccine just doesn’t give humans ferromagnetic properties.” 

VICE World News also reached out to Singapore’s Ministry of Health for comment about claims of vaccine magnetism. Ministry officials did not immediately reply to email queries but an official, who wasn’t authorized to speak to the media, said that they were aware of “vaccine misinformation spreading” and “strongly discouraged” people from spreading fake news regarding the vaccines. 

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When it comes to the subject of vaccines, it’s hard to ascertain why some people latch on to conspiracy theories and believe medical misinformation.

“I think it is partly from the complexity of the science and also the trust deficit between us, governments and corporate entities,” said the doctor Khoo.

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“Immunology is a highly complex science and it’s hard to grasp all the concepts in a short time, especially when information is being unloaded to the public almost daily. Together with the trust deficit, we find easier and more relatable explanations to fill that void.”

He added that transparency and clear communication were essential to combating medical misinformation wars. “But that is not something easily achieved either,” he said.

In a series of video messages sent to VICE World News, Kang attempted to demonstrate his magnetic powers. After four unsuccessful tries, he managed to get a coin to stick to his left arm. 

“That is the spot which is probably the most magnetic probably because my Pfizer jab was administered there,” he said.

“The effects are still there but they have considerably weakened compared to when I first got vaccinated.” 

Follow Heather Chen on Twitter.

Tagged:

Singapore, vaccines, Infowars, pandemic, anti-vaxx, worldnews, world coronavirus

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