Legal Action

NYS Dep’t of Health Removes False COVID-19 Vaccine Information in Response to ICAN Demand


ICAN achieved another victory in its ongoing campaign to ensure the government does not spread false information about vaccines.  New York State’s Department of Health prepared a social media campaign pushing the COVID-19 vaccines.  One of the ads falsely stated that the vaccines “went through the same rigorous approval process that all vaccines go through” and that “the vaccine is safe and effective. It was approved by the FDA, the CDC, and by NY’s independent vaccine panel.”  ICAN, through its attorneys, wrote to Dr. Howard Zucker, Commissioner of New York State’s Department of Health, and to Governor Andrew Cuomo, demanding they remove the false graphics and messaging regarding COVID-19 vaccines.  They quickly complied and removed the relevant false messaging.

On January 26, 2021, ICAN’s attorneys sent a letter to NYS DOH and Governor Cuomo informing them that they were violating federal law.  As part of Governor Cuomo’s #VaccinateNY campaign, NYS’s COVID-19 website provides materials to encourage and “educate” people about the COVID-19 vaccines. The social media materials are meant to be shared by New Yorkers to help spread the word and included the following poster:

Above this social media graphic, Cuomo and the NYS DOH provide the following “Sample Message” for individuals to use on social media: “The vaccine is safe and effective.  It was approved by the FDA, the CDC, and NY’s independent vaccine panel. Let’s #VaccinateNY!”

This social media messaging – intended to be shared and spread widely – made the false claim that the FDA “approved” a COVID-19 vaccine.  This is categorically false.  There is no COVID-19 vaccine that has been “approved” by the FDA.  The only two COVID-19 vaccines currently in use are authorized by the FDA pursuant to an emergency use authorization (“EUA”).

In fact, the FDA authorization letters for the COVID-19 vaccines expressly provide that the vaccines are each “an investigational vaccine not licensed for any indication” and require that “[a]ll promotional material relating to the COVID-19 Vaccine clearly and conspicuously … state that this product has not been approved or licensed by the FDA.”

Moreover, one would imagine that the Commissioner of the NYS DOH and the Governor would know that the CDC does not “approve” vaccines and that it would be false for them to claim that the CDC approved any COVID-19 vaccine.  Even worse, the two COVID-19 vaccines are still undergoing clinical trials, hence they were also spreading misinformation when they claimed that these EUA authorized products “went through the same rigorous approval process that all vaccines go through.”

Amazingly, just a few weeks later, on February 19, 2021, ICAN’s attorneys had to send anther letter to the NYS Health Commissioner and Governor Cuomo informing them that the following Facebook page now also contained false information regarding the COVID-19 vaccine and demanded that it be removed:

The post stated that “no serious side effects related to the vaccines have been reported,” however this information is plainly false.  In the vaccines’ clinical trials, there were serious adverse events that the trial investigators found were not only be “linked” to the vaccines, but in fact related to the COVID-19 vaccines. For Pfizer’s vaccine, these include shoulder injury, ventricular arrhythmia, and lymphadenopathy.  For Moderna’s vaccine, these include intractable nausea and vomiting, facial swelling, rheumatoid arthritis, Dyspnea with exertion, peripheral edema, Autonomic dysfunction, and B-cell lymphocytic lymphoma.

Further, post-authorization, there have been numerous serious adverse reactions related to the COVID-19 vaccines. The CDC, for example, has acknowledged that serious vaccine side effects related to the COVID-19 vaccines have been reported, including “[a]naphylaxis, an acute and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction.” Additionally, in the approximately two months since these vaccines have been in use, the CDC’s Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (“VAERS”) has received just under 16,000 reports of adverse events following COVID-19 vaccination and over 3,000 reports of serious adverse events related to a COVID-19 vaccination through February 12, 2021.

The NYS Health Commissioner and the Governor should be aware of the above information safety information.   They nonetheless made the false claim that there are no serious side effects related to the COVID-19 vaccines when the data clearly shows otherwise.  Even worse, the three COVID-19 vaccines are still undergoing clinical trials, so the data on serious adverse events is still being collected.

New York State and Governor Cuomo needed to be fact checked.  We are pleased to tell you that, after being notified that failure to remove the inaccurate graphic and its false messaging would result in a lawsuit, New York State took it down.  This is another victory that should serve to remind New York State, Governor Cuomo, and others that someone is watching.  ICAN’s message should be heard loud and clear: you may not spread “misinformation” about vaccines.