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Debunked: No, there wasn't a vaccine for Covid-19 back in 2001

A piece of misinformation being shared widely claims that a vaccine existed 19 years ago. This is untrue.

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MISINFORMATION ON SOCIAL media about Covid-19 has remained rife throughout the current pandemic.

Another recent post being shared thousands of times on Facebook follows a similar pattern – it’s a screenshot of a Facebook post, purporting to show a bottle of vaccine for coronavirus. 

The caption on the post says: “Now this was 2001 tell me why 19 years later they say there is no vaccine share before they take it down again.”


There’s a few problems here. 

Firstly a coronavirus is a term for – as the World Health Organization describes – “a large family of viruses which may cause illness in animals or humans”. 

Covid-19 is an illness caused by a virus called coronavirus. Despite what Simon Harris said on RTÉ radio a couple of days ago, it isn’t called Covid-19 because it’s the 19th coronavirus.

It’s called that first case of it was discovered in Wuhan in China in 2019.

So there’s no way this supposed vaccine could have existed in 2001 before the virus was even discovered. 

Secondly, it says “canine coronavirus vaccine” on the label here and “for use in dogs only”. It is entirely possible that this is in fact a vaccine for a specific kind of coronavirus that affects dogs. 

It most certainly isn’t a vaccine for Covid-19.

In fact, scientists around the world are scrambling to discover a vaccine as fast as they can. The expectations are that it will be unlikely that a vaccine can progress through clinical trials, be approved and then mass produced before the end of the year.

So, that’s another widely shared piece of misinformation shared on Facebook that is untrue. 


There is a lot of false news and scaremongering being spread in Ireland at the moment about coronavirus. Here are some practical ways for you to assess whether the messages that you’re seeing – especially on WhatsApp – are true or not. 


Look at where it’s coming from. Is it someone you know? Do they have a source for the information (e.g. the HSE website) or are they just saying that the information comes from someone they know? A lot of the false news being spread right now is from people claiming that messages from ‘a friend’ of theirs. Have a look yourself – do a quick Google search and see if the information is being reported elsewhere. 

Secondly, get the whole story, not just a headline. A lot of these messages have got vague information (“all the doctors at this hospital are panicking”) and don’t mention specific details. This is often – but not always a sign – that it may not be accurate. 

Finally, see how you feel after reading it. A lot of these false messages are designed to make people feel panicked. They’re deliberately manipulating your feelings to make you more likely to share it. If you feel panicked after reading something, check it out and see if it really is true.

TheJournal.ie’s FactCheck is a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of Principles. You can read it here. For information on how FactCheck works, what the verdicts mean, and how you can take part, check out our Reader’s Guide here. You can read about the team of editors and reporters who work on the factchecks here

Have you gotten a message on WhatsApp or Facebook or Twitter about coronavirus that you’re not sure about and want us to check it out? Message or mail us and we’ll look into debunking it. WhatsApp: 085 221 4696 or Email: answers@thejournal.ie  

About the author:

Sean Murray

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