We came across this message being forwarded many times on WhatsApp:
According to the message, individuals who have taken the COVID-19 vaccine should be “prohibited from using any type of anesthetic” as it “poses a great hazard to the life of the vaccinated person, and there is a high risk of immediate death”. The author of the message even quoted an example of a recently-vaccinated friend’s relative who “died immediately” after being given a topical anaesthetic. The message also mentioned that there is “a warning not to use anesthetics” on the boxes of COVID-19 vaccines.
An internationally viral claim
In the fact-checks written by publications in the respective countries, we see a unanimous verdict – that the claims made in the message are false, and that there is no evidence to suggest that there is any risk involved with using anaesthesia before or after vaccination.
For example, the Malaysian Society of Anaesthesiologists and the College of Anaesthesiologists, Academy of Medicine of Malaysia had “strongly refuted the misleading message”, saying that there is “no scientific evidence to validate the unfounded misinformation”.
They added that while patients might be asked to defer elective non-urgent surgeries if they are recently vaccinated, it is “not because of interactions with anaesthesia but mainly to confer the full benefit of the two doses of vaccine to protect the individual from COVD-19 when the patient comes to the hospital”.
The Indian government’s fact-checking arm PIB Fact Check also tweeted in response to the claims, saying that it is “fake” and that there is “NO scientific evidence till date to confirm the claim”.
— PIB Fact Check (@PIBFactCheck) June 16, 2021
In Thailand, the claim was also debunked by Thailand’s Institute of Dentistry which is under the Department of Medical Services, and Thailand’s government-run Anti-Fake News Centre. In a statement, the former wrote in Thai that “there are two forms of anaesthesia: an inject and gel type. It is used to anaesthetise the area treated to relieve pain after the treatment. It does not affect one’s immunity either before or after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine”.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that “most routine medical procedures or screenings can be performed before or after getting a COVID-19 vaccine”, listing procedures like routine blood work, dental procedures, CT scans, and other medical screening exams. However, it still advised individuals to talk to their doctors about getting a COVID-19 vaccine if they have recently, or will be having a procedure that requires anaesthesia so as to “make sure the benefits of vaccination outweigh potential risks”.
The Immunisation Advisory Centre in New Zealand adds that “there is no expectation that an anaesthetic would affect the safety or immune response to the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine”, and that after surgery, individuals can have any vaccination as soon as they have recovered and are well, although “it is preferable to avoid booking a vaccination within 48 hours of any major elective surgery in case responses to the vaccine, such as fever, cause delay in surgery or anaesthesia”.
Therefore, it is false that anaesthesia poses a great risk to individuals who have recently been vaccinated.
As for the claim that there’s a warning on the boxes of COVID-19 vaccines to not use anaesthesia after vaccination, it is important to note that there wasn’t a specific vaccine that was mentioned in the claim.
However, AFP’s fact-check team got in touch with representatives of AstraZeneca and Sinovac’s CoronaVac, the vaccines being administered in Thailand. In response to their queries, representatives of both companies denied the existence of such a warning on the boxes of their vaccines.
In Singapore, Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna’s vaccines are being administered under the National Vaccination Programme, but Sinovac is available to private healthcare institutions under the Special Access Route. While we are unable to find an image of the boxes of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, the information sheets for Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna do not state anything about the use of anaesthetics before or after vaccination.
Therefore, we rate the claim that there’s a warning on the boxes of COVID-19 vaccines to not use anaesthesia after vaccination as likely false.
We have reached out to Pfizer and Moderna for clarification of the purported warning on their vaccine boxes and will update the article when they get back.