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Fact Check-The Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine was not created in 2018

A doctored photo of a COVID-19 Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine box has fueled misinformation about the legitimacy of the pandemic by suggesting the shot was developed in 2018 – more than a year before the novel coronavirus itself was first discovered.

The original image of the packaging was shared in late 2020 (here and www.bbc.com/news/54893437) but resurfaced in July, this time with an alleged manufacturing date – “2018.07.05” - stamped on the side.

Some users have since questioned the pandemic, with one saying the picture was proof of a “plandemic” (here , here , here , here , here , here and here).

However, a spokesperson for AstraZeneca confirmed to Reuters that the company had not created packaging for its COVID-19 vaccine in 2018.

Also speaking to Reuters, an expert in image manipulation said the latest photo appears to be digitally altered.

“The date on the photo of the AstraZeneca vaccine packaging is different in color from the rest of the fonts - the font color here is richer and there are no light reflections,” said Dr Thorsten Beck, a researcher at the Humboldt-Elsevier Advanced Data and Text Centre (HEADT Centre) in Berlin (headt.eu/). “As a result, this part of the packaging looks rather unnatural.”

He added: “The number sequence is also printed at a slight angle compared to the packaging fold, which also raises questions. Both features can be interpreted as initial suspicions of image manipulation. A comparison of the font also suggests that the date was subsequently mounted in the image (comparison of ‘1’ in 2018 and in ‘10 multidose vials’). Still, poor image quality makes the analysis difficult.

“An inquiry to the manufacturer revealed that the packaging lists expiration date information (marked as 'EXP'), but not the production date. Therefore, the date information on the packaging, which can be seen in the picture, can with high probability be considered a fake” (here).

The novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, was not discovered until January 2020 (here), while the outbreak was characterized a pandemic in March (here).

The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine received first approval from the UK Medicines and Health Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in December 2020 (here).

VERDICT

False. The Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine received approval in December 2020 for use in the UK. The image of the vaccine packaging circulated in July has been digitally altered.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here.

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