Glasses not proven to protect against coronavirus infection

Fact checking

Jovana Vujovic, UNICEF young reporter
fact checking blog visual
UNICEF Montenegro
19 May 2021

Povodom informacije koja se krajem februara pojavila u nekim od domaćih medija, da su osobe koje nose naočare izložene manjem riziku od koronavirusa, mi, UNICEF-ovi mladi reporteri, odlučili smo da utvrdimo da li su ti medijski navodi tačni.

U tekstovima koji su prenijeli pomenutu informaciju navodi se da je jedno istraživanje pokazalo da su osobe koje nose naočare u dva do tri puta manjem riziku da obole od koronavirusa. Pretpostavlja se, naime, da oni manje rukama dodiruju oči, pa je manja i šansa da će na taj način prenijeti virus.

Pomenuto istraživanje, kako navode mediji, rađeno je u Indiji, na uzorku od 304 ispitanika starosti 10–18 godina koji su preležali COVID-19, a objavljeno je na kineskom sajtu MedRxev.

Mi smo i ranije analizirali informacije koje su domaći mediji prenosili sa sajta MedRxiv. Riječ je o izvoru koji objavljuje preliminarne naučne izvještaje iz oblasti medicine, dakle one koji još nisu prošli proces ekspertske recenzije.  

U sekciji „O nama“ na tom sajtu može se pročitati da mediji ne bi trebalo da se pozivaju na istraživanja koja oni objavljuju kao na pouzdani izvor informacija, niti da se na osnovu njih mogu davati uputstva za rad medicinskom osoblju.

At the end of February, information appeared in the local media that people who wear glasses have a lower chance of contracting the coronavirus. We, UNICEF's young reporters, who are engaged in fact-checking, have decided to check whether these media allegations are true.

The texts state that research shows that people who wear glasses are exposed to two to three times lower risk of contracting coronavirus for the reason that, it is assumed, they touch their eyes less with their hands, which makes them less likely to transmit the virus via their hands.

According to the media, the research was conducted in India with 304 respondents between the ages of 10 and 18 who had recovered from COVID-19 and it was published on the Chinese website medRxiv.

We have already analysed in the past information transmitted by the domestic media from the medRxiv website, which publishes preliminary scientific reports in medicine before they have been reviewed by experts.

In the “About us” section on that site, it is stated that the research posted there should not be published in the media as a reliable source of information, nor as instructions to medical staff for their future work.

By checking the posts on this site, we have ascertained that this analysis is ongoing, and that the results are not yet final.

The difference between the ongoing and concluded processes is massive, because the end result of the research may turn out to be the opposite, i.e. scientists may come to the conclusion that people who wear glasses are not exposed to a lower risk of contracting coronavirus.

The media also wrote about this during autumn 2020, after researchers noticed fewer short-sighted patients in hospitals in China.

The media then wrote that, before we rush to the opticians, we must take into account that the sample of this research was small, and that the research only showed a connection, not direct cause and effect, between wearing glasses and the rate of coronavirus infection.

Experts urge citizens to continue wearing protective masks and to respect coronavirus prevention measures, regardless of this and similar research.

Given the data we have obtained, we cannot say with certainty that the information is correct – that glasses protect against coronavirus – but we can conclude that the media must be more careful when publishing information that is not fully scientifically proven. In order not to fall into the traps of fake news, it is important to read carefully, check the information and follow official sources.

In an effort to contribute to preventing the dissemination of coronavirus misinformation and to promoting credible sources of information, UNICEF’s young reporters have decided to check the accuracy of information published on social media and in the media that has attracted public attention. In verifying the accuracy of information, they have followed the example of the Public Disclosure Platform “Raskrinkavanje“ and partly used its publicly available methodology.