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Jeff Cercone
By Jeff Cercone August 30, 2023

Video shows professor talking about water equity, not adding COVID-19 vaccines to water supply

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  • A speaker at a 2022 World Economic Forum news conference did not propose adding COVID-19 vaccines to the water supply. She discussed water equity and said addressing it is in everyone’s interest, comparing it with vaccination during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A social media post took video footage from a 2022 World Economic Forum press conference out of context to misleadingly suggest the speaker had proposed adding COVID-19 vaccines to drinking water.

An Aug. 22 Facebook post shared a video with sticker text that reads, "Listen!!! What are they going to do to the water supply??" A caption on the post showed an emoji of a syringe and said "in our (expletive) water supply. Only God can help us now."

The video shows a clip of a woman speaking in front of a backdrop with the World Economic Forum logo. She mentions COVID-19 vaccination and water in the same comments, but the video omits the context of her remarks.

This post was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

The woman speaking in the video is Mariana Mazzucato, a professor in the Economics of Innovation and Public Value at University College London and founding director of the university’s Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose.

Mazzucato was speaking at a May 25, 2022, news conference in Davos, Switzerland, announcing a new Global Commission on the Economics of Water, convened by the Netherlands government. Mazzucato is a commission co-chair.

Mazzucato was joined by commission co-chairs Tharman Shanmugaratnam, a former Singapore senior minister, and Johan Rockström, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany.

The water commission’s goal, according to its website, is "to transform the world’s understanding of the economics and governance of water, placing a strong emphasis on equity, justice, effectiveness and democracy."

In the 2022 news conference, Mazzucato did not suggest that COVID-19 vaccines should be added to the water supply. She was following up on a point made by Shanmugaratnam, who said water equity and access to clean water is a "global commons" issue, comparing it with countries addressing climate change. He described tackling both issues as being in "everyone’s self-interest, everywhere in the world."

Mazzucato then said addressing water equity is in everyone’s interest, comparing it with vaccination during the COVID-19 pandemic. She said:

"That’s also, of course, true with COVID, right? We are all only as healthy as our neighbor is on our street, in our city, in our region, in our nation and globally. Did we solve that? Like, did we actually manage to vaccinate everyone in the world? No.

"So highlighting water as a global commons, and what it means to work together and see it both out of that kind of global commons perspective, but also the self-interest perspective — because it does have that parallel — is not only important but it’s also important because we haven’t managed to solve those problems which had similar attributes. And water is something that people understand. Climate change is a bit abstract. Some people understand it really well; some understand it a bit; some just don’t understand it.

"Water … every kid knows how important it is to have water. When you’re playing football and you’re thirsty, you need water. So there’s also something about really getting citizen engagement around this and really, in some ways, experimenting with this notion of the common good. Can we actually deliver this time, in ways that we have failed miserably other times? And hopefully we won’t keep failing on the other things."

You can watch the full exchange in the video below:

We rate the claim that a speaker at a World Economic Forum conference proposed adding COVID-19 vaccines to water supply Pants on Fire! 

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Video shows professor talking about water equity, not adding COVID-19 vaccines to water supply

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