Vaccine skeptics blocking transfusions for life-saving surgeries, Facebook groups inciting violence against doctors and a global search for unvaccinated donors — COVID-19 misinformation has bred a so-called “pure blood” movement.
The movement spins anti-vaccine narratives focused on unfounded claims that receiving blood from people inoculated against COVID-19 “contaminates” the body.
Some have advocated for blood banks that draw from “pure” unvaccinated people, while medics in North America say they have fielded requests from people demanding transfusions from donors who have not received a vaccine.
In closed social media groups, vaccine skeptics — who brand themselves as “pure bloods” — promote violence against doctors administering vaccines alongside false claims of mass deaths of vaccinated people.
Taking the hysteria to the next level was a high-profile case of a New Zealand couple, who last year sought to block life-saving heart surgery of their infant on the grounds that any blood transfused could have come from a vaccinated donor.
Their stance in November prompted a New Zealand court to take temporary custody of the baby to allow the procedure, but the case became a cause celebre among vaccine skeptics around the world.
“Cases like this spread like wildfire on both fringe and mainstream news sites and then social media, providing attention for anti-vaccine conspiracy theories,” said Katrine Wallace, an epidemiologist and assistant professor at the University of Illinois Chicago. “There is absolutely no science behind these conspiracies. If you give blood from a vaccinated donor to an unvaccinated person, the person receiving the transfusion does not become vaccinated.”
George Della Pietra, a Swiss naturopath, founded Safe Blood Donation, a global mediation service that falsely labels mRNA vaccines a “health threat” and seeks to connect unvaccinated blood donors with recipients.
The Zurich-based nonprofit offers to obtain “fresh or canned” unvaccinated blood for its patrons, Safe Blood says on its Web site.
The company says it has a presence across western Europe, the US, Canada, Australia, Asia and Africa.
An e-mail to Pietra requesting comment elicited a reply from Safe Blood media director Clinton Ohlers.
“There are a large number of scientists and doctors who not only have great concerns about the COVID vaccines, but are convinced that they also enter the body via the blood through the back door, so to speak, and remain there,” Ohlers wrote, quoting from the Web site.
That claim directly contradicts scientific assertions.
“Blood donations from individuals who have received a COVID-19 vaccine are safe for transfusion,” American Red Cross biomedical communications senior manager Jessa Merrill said.
“Similar to other vaccines ... the COVID-19 vaccine is designed to generate an immune response to help protect an individual from illness, but vaccine components themselves are not found within the bloodstream,” she said.
Safe Blood’s members are required to pay an initial joining fee of 50 euros (US$54), followed by 20 euros each subsequent year, its Web site says.
“The ‘safe blood’ movement is absolutely based 100 percent in anti-vaccine misinformation,” Wallace said. “As with all anti-vaccine misinformation, appealing to people’s fears is sadly profitable.”
The demand to remain “pure” reaches beyond blood to social media posts soliciting sperm from unvaccinated men — conspiracy theorists speculate online that the precious commodity would be the “next bitcoin” — as well as breast milk from unvaccinated mothers.
These requests appear to stem from belief in the debunked claims that COVID-19 vaccines can cause infertility or alter the human DNA.
Demand for “unvaccinated” blood is unclear, but experts say it would be a challenge to procure it in countries with high vaccination rates.
In the US, where more than 80 percent of the population has received at least one COVID-19 jab, US Food and Drug Administration guidelines do not request blood collectors to test for vaccination status. Hospitals are also not able to inform the status of donated blood to patients.
“Is the US blood supply tainted?” read a headline from Children’s Health Defense, a nonprofit founded by Robert Kennedy Jr, a prominent purveyor of vaccine misinformation.
It falsely asserted that the country’s vaccination campaign might have “contaminated the country’s blood supply.”
An Agence France-Presse reporter who infiltrated one of the closed “pure bloods” Facebook groups found posts vilifying doctors administering vaccines as “an arm of the state.”
Other posts contained a cartoon image of a nurse holding a syringe and standing in a field full of skulls, and another of “victims” tumbling out of a vaccine bottle in crutches and wheelchairs.
Another post contained a video of a shirtless muscular man headbutting and smashing a vehicle window in what was claimed to be a public outburst against vaccines.
The Investment Commission yesterday approved a Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電) application to invest an additional US$3.5 billion in its Arizona subsidiary to manufactured advanced chips. The world’s largest contract chipmaker’s board of directors last month approved the funding project after TSMC started moving manufacturing equipment into the fab in December last year in preparation for the production of 4-nanometer chips next year. TSMC said it has also commenced the second phase of facility construction in Arizona. The second fab is to produce semiconductors using 3-nanometer technology in 2026. Altogether, TSMC plans to spend US$40 billion on the Arizona fabs, doubling its
KEY SECTOR: Taiwan’s new chip legislation is insufficient, and a more strategic ‘chip act’ that covers the whole semiconductor ecosystem is needed, MediaTek’s chairman said MediaTek Inc (聯發科) chairman Rick Tsai (蔡明介) yesterday urged the government to formulate a state semiconductor strategy and comprehensive “chip act” that includes local chip designers and smaller-scale semiconductor companies, as they are facing intensifying competition from China. The government is playing an increasingly important role in safeguarding the local semiconductor industry’s competitiveness, given that the US, the EU and Japan are offering hefty subsidies and significant tax incentives to build semiconductor capacity domestically, as they have realized the strategic importance of semiconductors, Tsai said. To implement such a program, the government should take steps to finance a “chip act,” Tsai said
Microsoft Corp has threatened to cut off access to its Internet search data, which it licenses to rival search engines, if they do not stop using it as the basis for their own artificial intelligence (AI) chat products, people familiar with the dispute have said. The software maker licenses the data in its Bing search index — a map of the Internet that can be quickly scanned in real time — to other companies that offer Web search, such as Apollo Global Management Inc’s Yahoo and DuckDuckGo. Last month, Microsoft integrated a cousin of ChatGPT, OpenAI’s AI-powered chat technology, into Bing. Rivals
MOUNTING PRESSURE: Although bank failures in the US and Europe would not cause systemic risks, it would dampen consumers’ willingness to spend, GlobalWafers said GlobalWafers Co (環球晶圓), the world’s third-largest silicon wafer supplier, yesterday said that the financial turmoil in the US and Europe has dimmed the outlook for chip demand in the second half of this year, as growing economic uncertainty could dampen consumer spending. The Hsinchu-based wafer manufacturer said it is seeing greater pressure from economic uncertainty on the industry’s recovery, as customers would have not expected Silicon Valley Bank, Signature Bank and a tier-one bank like Credit Suisse Group SA to collapse suddenly. Although the failures are unlikely to cause systemic risks, consumers would be cautious of spending on non-essential items, such