Coronavirus: Doctors urge men not to inject COVID-19 vaccine into their penis

A doctor who appears in a viral social media post claiming doctors have found the COVID-19 vaccine works best for men if it's injected directly into the penis has labelled it a "work of mischief". 

The post, which has been circulating on Facebook since the new year, is clearly fake - but it's fooled many people, including some here in New Zealand, where it's been spread by pages set up by supporters of outgoing US President Donald Trump

"And just like that, all the men on Earth became 'antivax' overnight," one person who shared it commented. 

The image appears to be a screenshot of a CNN article with the headline: 'Doctors encourage covid-19 vaccine injections in penis.' The synopsis falsely claims, 'Doctors are discovering that, for male patients, the penis offers the fastest release of the vaccine throughout the body.'

It's accompanied by a picture of Mohitkumar Ardeshana, a hormone therapy doctor from Biote Medical's Claremont Medical Center in California.

"The article is completely fake," he told fact-checking site Boom Live. "I have not said anything about such a study. It is a work of mischief by someone."

Australia's AAP FactCheck backed that up, saying the terrifying drawing of a needle being stabbed into a penis is actually instructions on "how to perform a self-injection procedure to treat erectile dysfunction" from the website of Kansas City’s Saint Luke's healthcare service. 

The post also falsely claims the discovery was made by researchers at the University of California, who confirmed it was "untrue". 

Both the two most-widely distributed vaccines so far - one made by Moderna, the other Pfizer/BioNTech - are injected into the arm, like most other vaccines. 

AAP FactCheck also notes the article doesn't follow typical CNN style - the US news network doesn't spell the disease all in lower-case, doesn't have full stops at the end of its headlines and is missing an author byline and publication date. The font is also wrong. 

The past year has seen huge amounts of misinformation and disinformation on the COVID-19 spread online, including that it doesn't exist, isn't any worse than the flu or that the vaccine contains microchips created by philanthropist and Microsoft founder Bill Gates. 

In reality it's killed nearly 2 million people, is spreading faster than ever right now, and the approved vaccines appear to have over 90 percent efficacy with few side-effects, according to clinical trials involving tens of thousands of people. 

There have been reports of severe reactions at rates significantly higher than older vaccines, but they're still incredibly rare - about 11 in every 1 million vaccine doses.