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How a US Woman's Foot Allergy Ended up Fanning Anti-vaccine Propaganda

A file photo of a volunteer being injected by the Pfizer vaccine. (Image for representation.)

A file photo of a volunteer being injected by the Pfizer vaccine. (Image for representation.)

Patricia Chandler has been part of a coronavirus vaccine trial group after which she got blisters on her feet. But she had only been given a placebo.

Coronavirus has led to a slew of fake news, misinformation, and allegations on social media. Now that Covid-19 vaccines are becoming a reality, online spaces are getting flooded with a new kind of misinformation - anti-vaccination propaganda. And Texas resident Patricia Chandler from the United States found out about it in the worst possible way.

Chandler has been on the receiving end of social media backlash from all quarters ever since she posted photos of her feet covered in blisters due to an unexplained skin condition. What caught people's attention was the fact that the woman had taken part in a Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine trial.

Patricia's photos were just enough to kickstart a flurry of anti-vaccine propaganda and outrage. Anti-vaccine crusaders used pictures of her blistered feet to wage a war against the coronavirus vaccine that saw administration in the UK this week and for which, the US is awaiting FDA approval. Vaccine critics claimed that Chandler's blistered feet were a result of the vaccine. Yet others called out Chandler for spreading fake news about the vaccine.

But did the vaccine trial really cause Chandler's feet to blister up? The short answer is, no.

According to a BBC report in the BBC, Chandler had indeed been a part of the Covid-19 vaccine trials. But instead of the real vaccine, Chandler received a 'placebo' - a small injection of saltwater, which is something researchers do with groups they use for vaccine trials. The practice enables them to compare the actual effects of a drug or medicine being tested on subjects.

Chandler had who already been struggling with medical costs due to a back problem, had been receiving help from donors on a GoFundMe page for Patricia, launched by a relative. After photos of her feet went viral, her Go Fund Me page also linked her condition to the vaccine.

The page initially read, "Patricia... was a volunteer in a COVID-19 vaccine study recently and had a severe adverse reaction", the BBC report said. However, the page later rectified the information and deemed that the cause for her skin condition was still unclear. "The manufacturer of the vaccine has unblinded her due to this safety concern and it has been discovered she was in the placebo arm of the trial," the edited noted said.

The original post, however, was picked up by an anti-vaccine activist and kept on spreading and eventually resulted in causing much distress to Chandler. The photos evoked backlash both from 'anti-vaxxers' as well as those in support of vaccines who slammed her for sharing unverified information.

The abuse reached such an extent that researchers were compelled to inform Chandler that she has only received saline water dosage and was hence at no point at the risk of getting a drug reaction from the vaccine.