No, The First Volunteer In The UK's Vaccine Trials Hasn't Died

Fake news stories claiming that a participant in a study at Oxford had died first emerged on Saturday and have since gained traction online – particularly among anti-vaxxers.

The government have been forced to debunk fake news stories circulating widely online amongst anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theorists which falsely claim that the first volunteer in a human trial of a coronavirus vaccine has died.

Several websites purporting to be news organisations have shared stories claiming that Elisa Granato, who was one of the first people to receive the trial vaccine, had died after becoming involved with the study at Oxford University.

Posts have also emerged on Facebook, where they have been shared in conspiracy theory and anxti-vaxxer groups in multiple languages.

Speaking to the BBC on Thursday, the 32-year-old microbiologist said she was “excited” to join the effort to find a vaccine, adding: “Since I don’t study viruses, I felt a bit useless these days, so I felt like this is a very easy way for me to support the cause.”

The fake reports claiming she had died appeared to have first emerged on Saturday on ‘News NT’ – a Wordpress site with just one author, purporting to be a news organisation – but began to gain traction on social media on Sunday with some tweets gaining hundreds of likes and retweets.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) tweeted on Sunday afternoon: “News circulating on social media that the first volunteer in a UK coronavirus vaccine trial has died is completely untrue”.

Screen grab issued by POOL showing microbiologist Elisa Granato being injected as part of human trials at Oxford University.
Screen grab issued by POOL showing microbiologist Elisa Granato being injected as part of human trials at Oxford University.

The tweet also links to the government’s SHARE checklist, which encourages social media to take five steps to check the reliability of information before retweeting or sharing a post on social media.

Research into a potential vaccine being undertaken at Oxford is expected to ramp up in weeks to come, with up to 1,102 participants to be recruited across multiple study sites in Oxford, Southampton, London and Bristol.

A Covid-19 vaccine is considered the ultimate exit strategy by many experts, and scientists across the world are racing to develop one that can be produced at scale.

The Oxford team hopes to have at least a million doses of its candidate ready in September, but foreign secretary Dominic Raab warned on Sunday that a vaccine “wouldn’t realistically come into play until the end of the year”


What's Hot