Fact check: Post about ivermectin and Afghan refugees is missing context

Ella Lee
USA TODAY

The claim: Afghan refugees will receive ivermectin before coming to the US

As refugees fleeing Afghanistan under the Taliban’s rule begin to arrive in the U.S., some claim the Afghans are receiving a treatment that has drawn criticism and ridicule here.

“Guess who is getting IVERMECTIN before they arrive. AFGHANISTAN REFUGEES!” reads a Sept. 3 Instagram post which garnered more than 500 likes in two days. 

In the comments of the post, some Instagram users questioned why the drug is recommended for refugees but not for COVID-19 use.

“Wow! But we couldn’t get treated. We were told to buy OTC allergy & cough medicine,” one commenter wrote. 

“Saw that. Lmao. Whilst people on (ventilators) beg for it and are actually being refused,” wrote another.

It’s true that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises refugees from several continents to take ivermectin before or after they arrive in the U.S. But the treatments are to rid the refugees of possible parasitic infections and have nothing to do with preventing or quelling COVID-19. 

USA TODAY reached out to the post’s creator for comment. 

Ivermectin recommended to refugees as presumptive treatment for intestinal parasites

Ivermectin is an anti-parasite product designed primarily for farm animals and, in some cases, human use. 

The Food and Drug Administration has approved ivermectin tablets to treat some parasitic worms and topical formulations to treat external parasites like headlice in humans. But reports of people sickened after using ivermectin meant for cattle, sheep and horses – which is more concentrated and dangerous than the drug meant for human use – have increased since false claims that the drug treats and prevents COVID-19 began circulating. 

Ivermectin is not approved to treat any viruses, and studies have not shown it to be effective at treating COVID-19.

Fact check:Ivermectin is not a proven treatment for COVID-19

The CDC’s health guidance for overseas refugees prescribes ivermectin as presumptive treatment for intestinal parasites, particularly Strongyloides infection. Strongyloides are parasitic roundworms commonly referred to as threadworms in the U.S.

The guidance suggests all refugees from Asia – where Afghanistan is located – should receive two doses of ivermectin, once a day for two days, before coming to the United States. They should also receive a single dose of albendazole, another anti-worm medicine. 

Refugees from the Middle East, North Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean are under the same guidance. 

“This guidance is intended for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) physicians and other panel physicians who administer overseas predeparture presumptive treatment for intestinal parasites, but may also be referenced by U.S. medical providers caring for refugees who will be receiving presumptive treatment after they arrive in the United States,” the CDC’s website reads.

Our rating: Missing context

We rate the claim that Afghan refugees will receive ivermectin before coming to the U.S. MISSING CONTEXT. It’s true that the CDC advises refugees from several continents to take ivermectin before or shortly after they arrive in the U.S. But the treatments are to rid the refugees of possible parasitic infections and have nothing to do with curbing COVID-19. Ivermectin has not been approved or proven effective as a treatment for COVID-19.

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