Social media users have questioned the legitimacy of widely used images showing the first recipient of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine under the UK’s landmark mass immunisation program.
One Facebook post from December 9 features screenshots of multiple news articles that include photos of 90-year-old grandmother Margaret Keenan receiving the first dose of the vaccine outside a clinical trial. One BBC screenshot is dated December 8, while another CNN article dated October 22 carries a similar image.
“Please explain to me how the same person who’s the “first to get vaccinated” today in a BBC article…..90 year old Margaret Kennan (sic)….is also in a CNN photo wearing the exact same clothes, in the exact same chair, and getting a shot back in October?” the post’s caption states.
“The establishment fake news gets more absurd each day.”
At the time of writing, the Facebook post from a user listed as living in Melbourne, Victoria, had been viewed more than 15,000 times and shared more than 270 times. Similar claims have also been circulating on Instagram and Twitter.
While internet sleuths claim to have uncovered a hoax involving the UK’s first COVID-19 vaccine recipient, their “fake news” suggestions misunderstand how the image has been attached to online reports.
Pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and BioNTech announced on November 18 that their COVID-19 vaccine candidate had successfully passed efficacy tests, proving 95 per cent effective in combating the virus.
The UK government accepted regulatory approval for the vaccine on December 2 and announced the jabs would be rolled out from the week starting December 7 with elderly people given priority. It was the first Western country to approve a COVID-19 vaccine for widespread use.
Nonagenarian Margaret Keenan was the first in line to receive the vaccine at University Hospital in Coventry – and imagery of her being administered the shot was used worldwide. That included by news organisations featured in screenshots in the Facebook post: the BBC, KTNV 13 Action News and 8 News NOW.
On December 10, a video package including footage of Ms Keenan receiving the injection was also among the videos that appeared on an October 22 CNN article. The article was about a report finding the Trump administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic potentially led to 130,000 to 210,000 avoidable deaths.
The article is not related to the UK’s rollout of the Pfizer vaccine and includes no images of Ms Keenan in its main body. Rather, the video is part of a ‘carousel’ of video packages on related topics that feature on the CNN website.
The unique URL for the video indicates it was posted on December 8. Other videos that appeared on the same October 22 article, as of December 10, included an interview with US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar from December 9 and a report from the same date on social media sites tackling vaccine misinformation.
A widely used photograph of Ms Keenan with her sleeve rolled up receiving the injection was taken by Jacob King for the Associated Press on December 8. A reverse image search of the same photo shows the earliest iteration of it online was posted on the same date and not October.
A similar claim about Ms Keenan’s image purportedly being used in October has been debunked here.
Images and video of Margaret Keenan, the first person in the UK to be vaccinated against COVID-19 outside a clinical trial, receiving an injection were not taken by and used in the media in October. While the December 8 imagery featured in a video package on an older CNN article, this footage was included in a video ‘carousel’ player alongside other up-to-date videos on the news site.
False – Content that has no basis in fact.