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Double Check: Who Is Dr. Robert Malone?

Double Check: Who Is Dr. Robert Malone?

By Devika Khandelwal and Alice Franklin

A man by the name of Dr. Robert Malone has recently found fame through alternative media outlets, claiming to be the RNA vaccine inventor and spouting out a mishmash of misleading claims.

Malone is a scientist. In 1989, he co-wrote a paper titled "Cationic liposome-mediated RNA transfection." While his work on RNA transfection might have been important, his claim to be the “inventor” of RNA vaccines is shaky, to say the least. 

In a recent, lengthy interview with the factually dubious Epoch Times, Malone made a number of claims about treatments for COVID-19 as well as COVID-19 vaccines. Many of these claims were misleading rather than downright false; they sometimes have a nugget of truth in them – a perennial conundrum for the fact checker.

We looked at a few of them here.


FALSE: Dr. Robert Malone invented mRNA vaccines.

It is  Dr. Katalin Karikó and her collaborator Dr. Drew Weissman who are more commonly credited with laying the groundwork for mRNA vaccines. In 1989, Malone published a paper titled "Cationic liposome-mediated RNA transfection." While Malone's research may have been important, scientific breakthroughs don't always boast a sole "inventor." Instead, they come about through the work of many.

Read the full fact check here.


TRUE: In the U.S., the only COVID-19 vaccines available are genetic vaccines.

As of July 2021, there are three COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in the U.S. These are the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the vaccine from Pfizer/BioNTech, and the vaccine from Moderna. The Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines both use mRNA technology. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine uses double-stranded DNA.

Read the full fact check here.


PARTLY TRUE: If used early enough, anti-inflammatories can treat COVID-19.

Anti-inflammatories are used to treat COVID-19 in hospital settings but they cannot always alleviate COVID-19 symptoms by themselves. It is also not always advisable for patients to take anti-inflammatories at home. There is also no healthcare authority that recommends taking anti-inflammatories to prevent COVID-19.

Read the full fact check here.


MISLEADING: In India, promising studies on Ivermectin were stopped for political reasons.

There is no evidence that this move was, as Malone has alleged, "political" or what the "change in regime" comment means exactly. Malone did not expand on these particular comments.

In India, healthcare authorities have been using ivermectin during the COVID-19 pandemic in the hope that the drug would reduce the severity of COVID-19 or prevent severe cases altogether. However, the most recent guidelines show that healthcare authorities no longer recommend ivermectin. As India Today reported, "the Union Health Ministry and Family Welfare's directorate general of health services (DGHS) has issued revised guidelines to stop the use of Ivermectin and Doxycycline in Covid-19 treatment."

Read the full fact check here.


MISLEADING: Coagulation problems are being seen with the mRNA vaccines.

A team of researchers recently found evidence that COVID-19 vaccines that use adenovirus vectors (like the ones from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson) can trigger a rare but sometimes fatal blood clotting reaction called vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT). However, Malone did not mention that this side effect is extremely rare and that serious blood clots are more likely to occur during a COVID-19 infection than after a COVID-19 vaccine.

Read the full fact check here.


FALSE: V-safe at the CDC is an outdated, antiquated system.

In December 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) launched V-safe. The smartphone technology is designed to enhance several well-established vaccine safety monitoring systems like the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS). The app was built less than a year ago and provides people with technology to report side effects easily and in real-time and get access to healthcare. This helps officials gather information on how the vaccines are performing and monitor people regularly.

Read the full fact check here. 


FALSE: Vaccines are not important for adolescents because they have a very low probability of disease or death from COVID.

Children and adolescents can contract severe cases of COVID-19, sometimes leading to death. Vaccination can protect them.

Read the full fact check here.


MISLEADING: The lab leak theory is likely to be true.

The theory about a lab leak is still just an idea, a hypothesis that has not been proven. The theory has become more plausible for many, partly because no evidence has emerged to back alternative theories – but there is no substantive evidence for this one either. The most likely alternative – zoonotic transmission, when a disease jumps from animals to humans – is also extremely difficult to track, as it could have happened anywhere.

Read the full fact check here.


MISLEADING: Medics are gaslighting patients who present with post-vaccination syndrome, and social media is censoring their posts.

Medical gaslighting is a term used to describe situations in which medical professionals undermine or dismiss a patient's symptoms. While there is limited evidence that medics are intentionally gaslighting patients with regards to their supposed post-COVID vaccination syndrome, some long COVID patients have struggled to get doctors to believe their symptoms.

Read the full fact check here.


MISLEADING: WHO announced that it is important to wear masks because none of the vaccines prevents infection.

Malone misconstrued various WHO statements. A WHO spokesperson has said that they do not know to what extent vaccination protects against transmission and urged everyone to wear a mask.

Read the full fact check here.


FALSE: The utility of dexamethasone is very limited.

Multiple healthcare authorities disagree with Dr. Robert Malone's assertion. Dexamethasone is widely recommended for hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

Read the full fact check here.


MISLEADING: Canada is enticing and coercing children to get vaccinated by offering them free ice cream.

Several one-day vaccination pop drives have been organized across Canada where ice cream is given as an incentive. No one is coerced into taking the vaccine through a wide-scale program.

Read the full fact check here.


CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated that Malone wrote a paper titled "Cationic liposome-mediated RNA transfection." We have now clarified that Malone co-wrote this paper.

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