On May 9, Rafael Gazo Lahoz, a retired Spanish doctor and popular blogger, posted an image on his Facebook page comprised of two photos, one showing a cow’s ear with a tag, the other showing a woman’s head with a vaccine tag through her earlobe.
The post was shared more than 300 times, and most described the picture as an accurate representation. Some 60 Facebook users who commented on Lahoz’s post praised him for his anti-vaccine efforts and shared more images mocking the so-called “vaccine pride” trend on social media.
Lahoz’s post also triggered more conspiracy claims, including the false claim that the COVID-19 pandemic was a conspiracy to force humankind to accept “chipization.”
Facebook was not the only platform on which the image of a woman with a “vaccinated” ear tag was widely shared. It was also posted on Reddit, with about 4,000 up and down votes in less than 24 hours.
Tumblr user “oww666” posted the image in forums, and it has been picked up and passed on by others.
A reverse image search found that the same image appeared on several anti-vaxxer Twitter accounts. However, due to Twitter’s COVID-19 disinfo blocking policy, the image is either hidden in their feeds or has been deleted by the users themselves.
Analysis of the image (via PhotoScissors.com) shows that it had been digitally altered, with the tag having been inserted into an existing image.
Asa Elmstam (the logo Asa in the photo), a small Swedish firm, produces similar ear tags as part of its contemporary jewelry collection. However, the engravings on the real ear tags are completely different.
Rafael Gazo Lahoz has repeatedly described the COVID-19 vaccines as being underdeveloped and having unpredictable long-term effects. That is misleading and, experts say, dangerous because it can keep people from getting a shot that may save their life.
Lahoz falsely claimed on May 7 that a top French government health official “up to this day” continues to reject the existing vaccines against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and to warn the public about their dangers.
Spain’s EFE news agency fact-checked Lahoz’s claim and found that it was erroneous.