Covid-19 mutated long before mass vaccine roll-outs

9 July 2021
What was claimed

Covid-19 barely mutated before vaccines were rolled out.

Our verdict

This is untrue. All four variants of concern, designated as such by the World Health Organisation, were identified before mass public vaccination programmes began.

A post on Instagram claims that Covid-19 “barely mutated” before the roll out of the vaccines, implying their arrival caused the virus to mutate more often. 

This is not true. All four of the variants of concern (VOCs) listed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) were identified as such before the UK’s rollout, which began on 8 December 2020

The UK was the first country in the world to vaccinate a member of the public with the Pfizer vaccine outside of clinical trials. There are reports of Russia vaccinating some people with the Sputnik vaccine outside of clinical trials throughout 2020, but mass vaccination there also only started from December.  

The WHO says the Alpha variant was first identified in the UK in September 2020, the Beta variant in South Africa in May 2020, the Gamma variant in Brazil in November 2020 and the Delta variant in India in October 2020. 

Variants Alpha and Beta were officially designated VOCs in December 2020, while Gamma was designated as a VOC in January 2021 and Delta in May.

Full Fact fights bad information

Bad information ruins lives. It promotes hate, damages people’s health, and hurts democracy. You deserve better.