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No, photos of feet don’t show ‘adverse reaction’ to Covid-19 vaccine

Two photos of feet with a distressing skin condition have been shared on Facebook in South Africa, with the claim that it is the result of the Covid-19 vaccine.

“Wanna see what can happen if you take the vaccine that's coming? Here ya go,” the post starts, and continues with an elaborate story about a woman named Patricia, whose feet, it is claimed, are pictured.

The post says she “was involved in a Covid-19 vaccine study recently and has had a severe adverse reaction”. But is this accurate?

Patricia and the placebo

The feet pictured are in fact those of a woman named Patricia, surname unknown, according to the BBC, but the purple and red sores were not caused by any vaccine. 

The BBC says that the 30-year-old woman from the US state of Texas did participate “in a trial for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine” but she did not receive the actual vaccine

She received a placebo injection of salt water, instead of the actual vaccine. Placebos, sometimes known as sugar pills, are used in medical research and drug trials to compare outcomes of the active drugs with an ineffective alternative. 

Patricia started developing large and painful blisters on the soles of her feet in late October 2020. Her doctor said the illness might be a bad skin reaction to a medicine and Patricia speculated to a family member that there could be a link between the vaccine trial and the blisters. She did not know at the time that she was receiving a placebo.

Patricia’s relative set up a GoFundMe page to raise funds for her medical bills but in the page description “skipped over the doctor's uncertainty and made a direct link between the blisters and the vaccine trial”, Patricia told the BBC. 

GoFundMe is a US-based crowdfunding platform.  

The GoFundMe page was shared on social media and after an anti-vaccine influencer posted it, the story went viral

Pfizer confirmed woman received placebo

Researchers usually do not tell drug trial participants whether they received the drug or the placebo, so not to influence the results of the trial. But Patricia told the BBC that because of the unusual circumstances, researchers and the drug company revealed to her that she had received the salt water placebo, not the trial vaccine.

Patricia’s doctors were still trying to find the cause of her painful blisters, as of 8 December. But there is no link between any Covid-19 vaccine and her predicament. Pfizer has also reported to the press that “no serious safety concerns have been observed in our trial”. – Taryn Willows 


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