Fake stories wrongly claim Elisa Granato, one of the UK's first Covid-19 vaccine trial participants, has died

26 April 2020
What was claimed

Dr Elisa Granato, one of the first participants in a UK Covid-19 vaccine trial, has died.

Our verdict

This is false. She is not dead.

False news reports have been circulating online claiming that Dr Elisa Granato, one of the first participants in the UK's human trials of a possible vaccine for the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, has died shortly after being injected with the vaccine.

Dr Granato is not dead, and the reports are fake.

The BBC's medical correspondent Fergus Walsh, who covered the beginning of the vaccine trial, wrote on Twitter that he had spoken to Dr Granato over Skype that morning.

He added that Dr Granato had reassured her family that she was alive in case they saw the reports of her death. This was also reported on the BBC News website.

He later (after this article was first published) posted a video of Dr Granato saying that she was "very much alive" and "having a cup of tea".

Dr Granato herself tweeted on Sunday morning: "Nothing like [waking] up to a fake article on your death ... I'm doing fine everyone. Please don't share the article in question". (She has since protected her Twitter account, meaning that at the time of writing the tweet is currently not publicly visible, but it can still be seen in Google's cache of the page.)

The UK's Department of Health and Social Care has also said that the story is "completely untrue".


In a statement published to their website, the Oxford Vaccine Trial said: "We are aware there have been and will be rumours and false reports about the progress of the trial. We urge people not to give these any credibility and not to circulate them. We will not be offering a running commentary about the trial but all official updates will appear on this site."

Dr Granato, who is herself a post-doctoral microbiology researcher in the Zoology department at Oxford University, was one of the first two volunteers to be injected as part of the trial into the vaccine candidate known as "ChAdOx1 nCoV-19".

Because the trial tests ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 against a control, it is not certain that Dr Granato was even given the coronavirus vaccine: it is equally likely that she got the control injection (which in this case is a meningitis vaccine that is already licensed and widely used in the UK). 

The websites that have spread the false reports of Dr Granato's death are not recognised news outlets and do not provide any reputable sources or evidence for their claims. The article that appears to be the original report contains multiple grammatical and spelling errors, and refers to a supposed statement by the researchers that does not exist.

We've written more about how you can fact check claims you might see about the coronavirus pandemic for yourself.

Hear us talk through this fact check on our weekly podcast.

Update 26 April 2020

Updated to include the video of Dr Granato confirming that she is alive.

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