Post makes misleading claims about Covid vaccines and animal trials

13 August 2021
What was claimed

Covid-19 vaccines are not approved for use.

Our verdict

This is untrue. All three of the vaccines currently in use in the UK (Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna) have been authorised for use. A fourth, Janssen has been authorised, but is not yet in use.

What was claimed

All animals died in the vaccine’s clinical trials.

Our verdict

Animals are usually euthanised as part of medical trials so scientists can examine their organs for signs of pathology. This does not mean they were killed by the vaccine.

A post on Facebook incorrectly claims that vaccines are unapproved and experimental, and that all the animals used in trials died. 

The author does not specify that they are discussing the Covid-19 vaccines, but the claims are very similar to ones we have checked before about the Covid-19 vaccines and several comments refer to them. 

Covid-19 vaccines have been approved for use in UK

It is untrue that vaccines for Covid-19 have not been approved for use. 

All three of the vaccines currently in use in the UK (Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna) have been authorised for use. A fourth, Janssen has been authorised, but is not yet in use. 

Across the UK, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has a temporary authorisation (sometimes known as a regulation 174 authorisation) issued by the MHRA. 

In Great Britain, the Oxford-AstraZeneca, Moderna and Janssen vaccines have another type of authorisation, called a “conditional marketing authorisation” which has been issued by the Medicines and Healthcare productsRegulatory Agency (MHRA). 

The MHRA has previously told Full Fact that temporary authorisation and conditional marketing authorisations are “regulatory tools that enable medicines to be approved at the earliest time possible during an emergency situation, as soon as there are robust data to show that the benefits outweigh the risks”.

We have written more about the difference between these types of authorisation before.

Animals in Covid-19 vaccine trials were euthanised 

As we have also written before, it is true that the animals involved in Covid-19 trials died—but this doesn’t mean the vaccines are unsafe for human use. 

Chris Magee, head of policy and media at UK non-profit Understanding Animal Research, previously told Full Fact that animals used in drug trials are usually euthanised, so scientists can examine their internal organs for signs of pathology. 

In other words, the animals died but were not killed by the vaccine. 

Mr Magee also said that data already existed to indicate the vaccines were safe, which enabled researchers to run animal trials alongside the early stages of human trials.

Had the animals died during this process, he said, the human trials would have been immediately halted. The fact that they were not indicates the animals did not die unexpectedly.

This article is part of our work fact checking potentially false pictures, videos and stories on Facebook. You can read more about this—and find out how to report Facebook content—here. For the purposes of that scheme, we’ve rated this claim as partly false because four Covid-19 vaccines have been approved for use in the UK, and animals died in trials because they were euthanised, as is standard practice.

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