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Hoax Alert

Fake News: CDC Did NOT Accidentally Switch Flu Shots With HIV

  • by: Maarten Schenk
  • (Sat, 20 Oct 2018 17:22:12 Z)

Did the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) switch flu vaccinations with HIV samples, infecting millions of children with AIDS by accident? No, that's not true. The rumor was launched by satire website The Onion as a joke, it is not real.

The story originated from an article published by The Onion on October 18, 2018 titled "Embarrassed CDC Announces It Accidentally Switched Flu Shots With HIV" (archived here) which opened:

ATLANTA--Informing the more than 150 million Americans affected by the error that the mistake was "totally our bad," embarrassed officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday that they had accidentally switched all 2018 flu shots with samples of HIV. "Oh, god, we really and truly screwed the pooch on this one. We wish to say we're deeply sorry, especially to the 59.1 percent of children in the U.S. who received what they had every right to expect were influenza vaccines this fall.

Screenshot of https://www.theonion.com/embarrassed-cdc-announces-it-accidentally-switched-flu-1829843799

The official CDC website makes no mention of this "news" and nor do any other reputable news outlets. That is totally logical because The Onion is one of the oldest and best known satire websites on the internet. Their about page claims:

The Onion is the world's leading news publication, offering highly acclaimed, universally revered coverage of breaking national, international, and local news events. Rising from its humble beginnings as a print newspaper in 1756, The Onion now enjoys a daily readership of 4.3 trillion and has grown into the single most powerful and influential organization in human history.

In addition to maintaining a towering standard of excellence to which the rest of the industry aspires, The Onion supports more than 350,000 full- and part-time journalism jobs in its numerous news bureaus and manual labor camps stationed around the world, and members of its editorial board have served with distinction in an advisory capacity for such nations as China, Syria, Somalia, and the former Soviet Union. On top of its journalistic pursuits, The Onion also owns and operates the majority of the world's transoceanic shipping lanes, stands on the nation's leading edge on matters of deforestation and strip mining, and proudly conducts tests on millions of animals daily.

If you somehow find that hard to believe: you are right. Scroll down a bit futher on that page and you'll find this:

What if I want to sue The Onion?
Please do not do that. The First Amendment protects satire as a form of free speech and expression. The Onion uses invented names in all of its stories, except in cases where public figures are being satirized. Any other use of real names is accidental and coincidental. The Onion is not intended for readers under 18 years of age.

Articles from The Onion are frequently mistaken for real news by people on social media that only see the headline, short description and thumbnail image. Being one of the best known satire sites their articles also frequently get copied by "real" fake news sites that don't carry a satire disclaimer. Always Google before sharing something that sounds improbable!

We wrote about theonion.com before, here are our most recent articles that mention the site:

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About the author:

Maarten Schenk is our resident expert on fake news and hoax websites. He likes to go beyond just debunking trending fake news stories and is endlessly fascinated by the dazzling variety of psychological and technical tricks used by the people and networks who intentionally spread made-up things on the internet.  He can often be found at conferences and events about fake news, disinformation and fact checking when he is not in his office in Belgium monitoring and tracking the latest fake article to go viral.

Read more about or contact Maarten Schenk

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Lead Stories uses the Trendolizer™ engine to detect the most trending stories from known fake news, satire and prank websites and tries to debunk them as fast as possible. Read more about how we work and how we select stories to check here.

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