An Australian professor didn’t say Covid-19 vaccines aren’t vaccines

13 October 2021
What was claimed

A professor in New South Wales Australia, has said under oath that the Covid-19 vaccines are not vaccines.

Our verdict

The professor specified that the Covid-19 vaccines used in Australia are not “live vaccines” but did refer to them as vaccines.

It’s been claimed on Instagram that a professor in New South Wales (NSW), Australia, has said under oath that the Covid-19 vaccines are not vaccines, but actually drugs.

There is no evidence for this and her research organisation has denied she said these things. It seems people have misunderstood comments made by the professor in which she said that the vaccines are not live vaccines. 

In recent weeks the Supreme Court of New South Wales has been hearing a case brought by construction and healthcare workers against the state’s health minister, arguing that public health orders requiring vaccination against Covid-19 to carry out certain jobs, be declared invalid.  

The Instagram post claims that the court heard from “Professor McCartney [sic]” and shows a still of a video from a courtroom dated 30 September.

On 30 September, the court did hear from infectious disease specialist and director of the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS), Dr Kristine Macartney according to, which reported that the professor referred to the vaccines as vaccines, not drugs, numerous times during the hearing.

We have been unable to access a full transcript of the whole session which is not routinely published. It is illegal under NSW law to repost video footage of court hearings. 

However, reporter Steven Zemek who covered the case and watched the proceedings for NCA NewsWire told Full Fact it appeared as if the root of the claims was people misunderstanding the professor’s comments that the Covid-19 vaccines are not live vaccines.

Professor Macartney was clarifying why pregnant women are recommended to receive the Covid-19 vaccines, but not certain live vaccines. 

Live attenuated vaccines contain whole pathogens which have been weakened so they stimulate an immune response but not disease when administered. In the UK, the MMR and BCG immunisations are live attenuated vaccines.

But most routine vaccines given in the UK are not live vaccines, but subunit vaccines which “typically contain one or more specific antigens (or “flags”) from the surface of the pathogen” according to the University of Oxford’s Vaccine Knowledge Project.

The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine uses a harmless virus which carries genetic instructions to produce Covid-19 virus antigens once inside the body, but not a live attenuated SARS-CoV-2 virus, and so is not considered a live attenuated vaccine. The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines also use genetic information to encourage production of antigens inside the body, but do so without a viral vector.  

The NCIRS has issued a statement saying: “We are aware of misinformation being shared online and on social media platforms regarding NCIRS Director Professor Kristine Macartney’s recent appearance as an expert witness in a case before the Supreme Court of New South Wales. 

“A falsified court transcript has been shared that misrepresents the responses Professor Macartney provided to a series of questions.

“The responses in these online articles and posts attributed to Professor Macartney are fabricated. They do not reflect what Professor Macartney said, the official court transcript, expert opinion or fact.”

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