An American woman, known only as Patricia, who was participating in a Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine trial suddenly developed purple and red sores oozing with pus on her foot five days after her second injection.
Doctors could not explain the cause of Patricia’s problem and under America’s health care system, she was already struggling with medical bills due to a bad back. Now she had to take time off from her job due to her foot.
As her expenses rose, a relative set up a GoFundMe page to raise money to pay her medical bills.
The GoFundMe page featured a photo of the foot and read: “Patricia was a volunteer in a Covid-19 vaccine study recently and had a severe adverse reaction.”
The picture immediately went viral on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
“See they are trying to deliberately hurt us with the vaccine,” one tweet read.
“This is a vaccine trial participant,” read another. “Ready to roll up your sleeve?”
Soon, on top of the physical pain of her foot, she received a wave of online abuse.
The story spread quickly. It was picked up in several places, including an evangelical Christian site that promotes conspiracy theories about vaccines. From there it spread to religion-themed and anti-vaccine Facebook groups around the world.
As word began to spread, Pfizer and Patricia’s doctors started looking into her participation in the vaccine trial.
Normally, participants are not told whether they receive a vaccine or a salt water placebo. That information is only revealed to researchers once the study is complete.
However, because of the unusual circumstances researchers checked her records and found that Patricia had never been injected with the vaccine.
Trial records show that she had received placebos.
The BBC independently confirmed that fact, and consulted several independent dermatologists who said a saline solution injected into an arm would not cause a skin condition to flare up in someone’s foot.