Back in June 2020, Kanye West revealed that he had contracted coronavirus in February. He expressed reservations about possible vaccines, encompassing many frequently shared claims:

“It’s so many of our children that are being vaccinated and paralyzed,” he claimed. “So when they say the way we’re going to fix Covid is with a vaccine, I’m extremely cautious. That’s the mark of the beast. They want to put chips inside of us, they want to do all kinds of things, to make it where we can’t cross the gates of heaven.”

A lot of this sounds like something you’d watch in an episode of Black Mirror. But is there any truth to it? Is any of it even possible?

Rumours circulate on social media claiming that COVID-19 vaccines will contain microchips. The details vary but tend to include reference to some of the claims below:

  • the chips contain RFID technology allow people to be tracked;
  • the role of Bill Gates or The Gates Foundation in developing and rolling out this technology as a way of tracking who has been vaccinated;
  • the chip is the ‘mark of the beast’, a reference to Revelation 13:16.

What do we know about COVID-19 vaccines and microchips?

  • Passive RFID technology is too large to be injected through a needle; GPS tracking devices require batteries.
  • The Gates Foundation has proposed a novel way of embedding dye under the skin when people are vaccinated as a form of medical record; however, the technology is still under development and works through patches not syringes.
  • The “mark of the beast” regularly pops up in conspiracy theories, often expressing a fear of technology (commonly referencing microchips), governments, and economies.

RFID technology

When triggered by an electromagnetic interrogation pulse from a nearby reader device, a passive Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tag can transmit its unique serial number back to the reader. The passive tag is powered by the energy of the incoming radio waves. RFID tags are widely used. You’ll find them in library books (eliminating the need to scan barcodes to check books in and out) and ‘chips’ to identify pets. Tags typically need to be within 10cm–1m of the powered reader to be activated.

Small RFID tags have been successfully implanted in researchers and employees, allowing them convenient access to payment and building access control systems. The antennae are typically encased inside a glass capsule — 12mm x 2mm — too large to fit through the needle of a syringe.

GPS technology that can actively track your position by triangulating signals from overhead satellites requires battery power, much too large to inject.

Is Bill Gates involved?

In a fact check examining whether Bill Gates plans to use microchip implants to fight coronavirus, Reuters concludes:

Bill Gates foresees the use of ‘digital certificates’ with health records, but did not say these would be in the form of microchip implants. There are no plans to use this future technology during the coronavirus outbreak.

Rather than using syringes with needles, microneedle patches — smaller than a thumbnail — are being developed  to deliver some vaccines such as measles and rubella. An array of tiny sub-millimetre needles underneath the patch puncture the skin, delivering the vaccine. In testing, patients likened the sensation of the patch being pressed into the skin as an encounter with Velcro.

The Gates Foundation has helped develop Quantum Dot Dye technology that can implant a pattern of near-infrared dye — a tattoo — under the skin. MIT researcher Kevin McHugh explains that “in areas where paper vaccination cards are often lost or do not exist at all, and electronic databases are unheard of, this technology could enable the rapid and anonymous detection of patient vaccination history to ensure that every child is vaccinated.”

As well as the vaccine, dye contained in nanocrystals could be mounted on some of the needles, forming a pattern specific to the vaccine. The dye remains visible using a special reader for around five years.
COVID-19 vaccines are not being delivered through microneedle patches. Quantum Dot Dye technology is still being developed and there are no plans to use it to fight coronavirus.

The Mark of the Beast?

The ‘mark of the beast’ and the ‘number of the beast’ is mentioned in the Bible in the book of Revelation, chapter 13, verses 15-18.

“The second beast was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that the image could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name. This calls for wisdom. Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. That number is 666.” (New International Version)

The scriptural imagery and symbolism of the mark of the beast is often linked with things that some see as opposing Christianity. The rise of these supposedly evil people or systems are seen by some as a precursor to ‘end times’ (signs of Jesus’ return and the end of the world). As a sign of enslavement, the mark of the beast regularly pops up in conspiracy theories, often expressing a fear of technology (commonly referencing microchips), governments and economies.

Coming to a conclusion on the mark of the beast is beyond the remit of FactCheckNI: we’ll leave that in the hands of theologians! However, we note the words of Steve Fouch from the Christian Medical Fellowship (CMF) who recently spoke to Premier Radio about the positive impact vaccines have had on human health:

“They have eliminated some of the most deadly diseases like smallpox. They have brought under control a lot of other major illnesses that were scourges of the human race for many years. And they have improved the life expectancy of people across the world. So people often hear half-truths and little stories that make them scared about vaccines. But the reality is, they’re the biggest lifesaving medical technology, except possibly clean water, that we have ever developed. We have to remember that God enables science and medicine.”