Another Day, Another Meme to Debunk: Vaccines for the Bovine Coronavirus Will Not Cure COVID-19

During any big news event, Facebook becomes even more of a pit of toxic disinformation than it is on a relatively normal day. That said, there is one particular meme that I saw pop up a few times recently and I can’t stop thinking about it.

(Some context about my feed: I am from rural West Tennessee, so I saw this posted by a couple of folks back home. Please do not come at me—or anyone, really—with talk of ignorant rednecks or country hicks, I will promptly tell you that is some reductive nonsense and it’s not the point I’m making here.)

While both posters in my circles have since deleted the meme, which Facebook has now flagged as “partly false information,” it’s still really important to explain to our readers just why this specific post is completely bogus: For the eternal record contained within the limitless 1s and 0s of the Internet, there is no vaccine for humans who contract the novel coronavirus. This is the reality; it is not an elaborate ploy made up by the media for clicks. 

The confusion here rests in the fact that there are several types of the virus. There is even a coronavirus that infects cows. And that is the one that is treated with a vaccine, ScourGard 4K, for “healthy, pregnant cows and heifers as an aid in preventing diarrhea in their calves caused by bovine rotavirus, bovine coronavirus, and enterotoxigenic strains of Escherichia coil,” according to manufacturer Zoetisus. Bovine coronavirus has been around for years. It is not the same as the novel coronavirus causing the current pandemic, it is merely in the same family. As Reuters reports:

According to the CDC, coronaviruses were first identified in the mid-1960s. “Coronavirus” is a term for a group of diseases. Seven different kinds of human coronaviruses exist, including 229E, NL63, OC43 and HKU1. Most human coronaviruses cause “mild to moderate upper-respiratory tract illnesses,” similar to the common cold. In different species, coronaviruses can produce “a wide spectrum of disease syndromes.” The CDC mentions that: “Sometimes coronaviruses that infect animals can evolve and make people sick and become a new human coronavirus. Three recent examples of this are 2019-nCoV, SARS-CoV, and MERS-CoV.”

It makes a lot of sense that in this moment, people are desperately seeking a solution to make them feel safer. But this vaccine ain’t it. And if we’ve learned anything so far this week, it’s that experimenting with medication without the oversight of a physician, even if you’re following the word of our president, is downright dangerous.

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You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

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