FALSE: Makati Medical Center says COVID-19 vaccines weaken immune system

At a glance
  • Claim: The Makati Medical Center (MMC) released an advisory that said COVID-19 vaccines weaken the immune system.
  • Rating: FALSE
  • The facts: MMC denied releasing the list. The hospital also said that the advisory contained inaccurate information.
  • Why we fact-checked this: A reader emailed the false advisory for verification. It was circulating on messaging apps and was reposted by at least three accounts on Facebook.
Complete details

A circulating message falsely claimed that the Makati Medical Center (MMC) released an advisory about COVID-19 vaccines following the passing of Jose Maria "Joey" Avila, the head of its pathology department. 

The advisory read, “FYI Sa lahat ng kumuha ng Vaccine (to all those who availed of vaccines). Post from Makati Medical Center.” It then narrated how Avila died of COVID-19 after getting his first shot of the Sinovac vaccine.

The advisory listed information about COVID-19 vaccines, including a claim that the immune system weakens after vaccination.

“The vaccine starts to form antibodies immediately after entering the body. When antibodies are forming in our body, our immunity decreases a lot. When we take the second dose of the vaccine after the 21/28 days, our immunity decreases even more,” the advisory said.

These claims are false.

In an email to Rappler on Wednesday, May 5, the MMC said that the advisory did not come from the hospital.

“Please be advised that this post did not come from Makati Medical Center and contains information that are not accurate,” the hospital said. It also urged the public to only check its official Facebook and Twitter accounts for reliable information.

The hospital also linked to a post on its verified Facebook account about COVID-19 vaccines. It did not say anywhere in the post that vaccines weaken the immune system.

The World Health Organization, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Department of Health all say that getting vaccinated does the opposite of what the fake advisory claims – it strengthens the immune system by forming antibodies that can create immunity to the disease.

The CDC says that a COVID-19 vaccine, in particular, “typically takes a few weeks after vaccination” to produce white blood cells that form antibodies, but it does not weaken the immune system.

“Sometimes after vaccination, the process of building immunity can cause symptoms, such as fever. These symptoms are normal and are signs that the body is building immunity,” the CDC said.

The CDC added that it is possible that a person could be infected with COVID-19 just before or just after vaccination, and then get sick because the vaccine did not have enough time to provide protection.

MMC posted its official statement on Avila’s death on its verified Facebook account on April 21. It did not say that the doctor’s death was caused by a vaccine, nor did it disclose the vaccine brand he took before he died on April 20.

On Tuesday, May 4, a Manila Bulletin report said that MMC director Saturnino Javier refuted a related claim that linked Avila’s death to vaccination. The report quoted Javier as saying that Avila only received only one dose of a vaccine which brand “cannot be disclosed.”

A reader emailed the fake advisory to Rappler for verification. It was circulating on messaging apps and was reposted by at least three accounts on Facebook. – Pauline Macaraeg/Rappler.com

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