Fact check: The virus that causes COVID-19 has been isolated, and is the basis for the vaccines currently in development

Social media posts have suggested that the contents of the vaccines for COVID-19 are not known, because the virus that causes the disease has not been isolated. This is not true.

An undated photo shows a 3-D print of a SARS-CoV-2 particle, also known as novel coronavirus, the virus that causes COVID-19. The virus surface (blue) is covered with spike proteins (red) that enable the virus to enter and infect human cells. The spikes on the surface of coronaviruses give this virus family its name ? corona, which is Latin for ?crown,? and most any coronavirus will have a crown-like appearance. NIH/Handout via REUTERS. THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT

The posts read: “IF NO ONE HAS ISOLATED THE VIRUS, THEN WHAT’S IN THE VACCINE??” (here , here , here).

The virus that causes the disease COVID-19 is called Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, or SARS-CoV-2 (here).

The virus was identified by Chinese authorities on Jan. 7, 2020 (, after which its genetic material (RNA) was sequenced (here).

This sequence contains instructions for creating the virus’s proteins, which are the basis for the Pfizer-BioNTech, Oxford-AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines.

Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech both use new messenger RNA (mRNA) technology (here).

The messenger instructs cells to make proteins that mimic the outer surface of SARS-CoV-2, which spur the immune system into action without replicating like the actual virus (here).

The AstraZeneca vaccine uses a weakened version of a common cold virus that causes infections in chimpanzees (here).

The chimpanzee cold virus has been genetically changed to include the genetic sequence of the spike protein which the coronavirus uses to gain entry to human cells.

The adenovirus delivers this genetic material which tricks the human body to produce proteins known as antigens that are normally found on the coronavirus surface, helping the immune system develop an arsenal against infection (here).


False. The virus that causes the disease COVID-19 has been isolated and is named SARS-CoV-2. After being isolated, work began on developing a vaccine against the virus.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts here .