Earlier this month, a story began making its way around the internet: A 15-year-old boy in Colorado had reportedly died after receiving a coronavirus vaccine.
It appeared in the Twitter feeds of prominent vaccine critics, where it generated thousands of likes and retweets. It showed up on Facebook, and in both Spanish and English on websites that traffic in coronavirus misinformation. It eventually made its way into a local television news story.
Nevermind that the report had not been verified. Or that it came from a federal database where literally anyone can report anything, a database containing a bold-face warning that the report “does not mean that health care personnel or the vaccine caused or contributed to the adverse event.”