Study found long-term brain damage associated with COVID-19, not vaccine | Fact check

The claim: Study found COVID-19 vaccine can cause long-term brain damage

A May 12 Instagram post (direct link, archive link) shows a screenshot of a now-deleted tweet.

"BREAKING: A European study has found COVID vaccines could be causing 'long-term brain damage,'" reads the tweet.

The post garnered more than 200 likes in five days. Similar versions of the claim have been shared on Instagram and Twitter.

Follow us on Facebook! Like our page to get updates throughout the day on our latest debunks

Our rating: False

The study explored the long-term neurological effects of being infected with the COVID-19 virus, not the vaccine.

Study focuses on virus, not vaccine

The viral claim appears to stem from a May 9 article published by The People's Voice, formerly known as NewsPunch. The website has a lengthy history of publishing misinformation.

The article references a pre-print study published in April that explored the long-term neurological effects observed in those who had been infected with COVID-19. It claims the study revealed that "spike proteins from mRNA jabs infest the brain tissue of vaccinated people."

But Dr. Ali Ertürk, a co-author of the paper and director of the Institute of Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine in Munich, told USA TODAY the study did not examine the COVID-19 vaccine of its side effects.

"We have done zero experiments using the vaccine, and we have shown and claim zero side effects of the vaccine," said Ertürk in an email. "Our work reports the presence of the spike protein in the skull of deceased individuals long after their COVID-19 infection, suggesting that the spike's persistence may contribute to long-term neurological symptoms."

Fact check: FDA still recommends COVID-19 vaccine, contrary to viral claim

None of the COVID-19 vaccines authorized in the U.S. contain the live virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Instead, the mRNA in the vaccine teaches the body's cells to make copies of the COVID-19 spike protein so they can later recognize and fight off the virus if they become infected.

"The issue is that during infection, there is an enormous amount of viral replication and spike protein production, which impacts many organs including the brain," Ertürk said.

The COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective, according to the CDC.

USA TODAY reached out to the users who shared the post for comment but did not immediately receive a response.

The claim has also been debunked by the Associated Press and PolitiFact.

Our fact-check sources:

Thank you for supporting our journalism. You can subscribe to our print edition, ad-free app or e-newspaper here.

Our fact-check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID-19 vaccine not proven to cause brain damage | Fact check