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Fact Check: Conspiracy theory claims Covid-19 vaccine caused new strain in UK

India Today Anti Fake News War Room has found that UK approved Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine on Dec 2, and started the vaccination process on Dec 8. The new Covid variant emerged in the UK in Sept 2020, suggesting it has no connection with the vaccine.

Several deaths and side-effects suspected to be linked to the Covid-19 vaccination drive have been reported from different countries. At the same time, more and more people are being infected with a new strain of coronavirus that emerged in the United Kingdom.

And now, many on social media believe the UK strain, which is more contagious, is the outcome of a Covid-19 vaccine administered in the country.

One such tweet says, “Last week England gets the #vaccine this week there is apparently a ‘new strain’. Coincidence I think not!”

Another user wrote, “Don’t take the vaccine. You might save the United States from the new strain coming and making 2021 worse than 2020 and make 2022 also terrible. Don’t take the vaccine if you want this horrible time in our life to continue. Yes I’m talking to you. Yes you (sic).”

India Today Anti Fake News War Room (AFWA) has found that the UK government approved the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine on December 2, 2020, and started the vaccination process on December 8. The new Covid variant emerged in the UK in September 2020, suggesting it has no connection with the vaccine.

The archived versions of the posts are saved here, here, here, here and here.

Timeline tells the truth

The UK government had approved the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, called mRNA vaccine BNT162b2, on December 2, 2020.

As per UK government records, the vaccination process began on December 8.

The first strain of the new variant was officially found in September 2020, some four months prior to administration of the first dose of the vaccine in the UK.

The new strain circulated at very low levels in the population until mid-November.

What is an mRNA vaccine?

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine that the UK is administering for Covid-19 is an mRNA vaccine. As per the United States national public health institute Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), mRNA vaccines are a new type of vaccines to protect against infectious diseases containing a “live virus”.

To trigger an immune response, many vaccines put a weakened or inactivated germ in our bodies, but this is not the case in mRNA vaccines. Hence, this vaccine cannot cause the disease in an inoculated person.

Instead, they teach our cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response inside our bodies. That immune response produces antibodies, and those antibodies protect us from the real virus.

Expert speak

India Today TV spoke to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), which in collaboration with Bharat Biotech developed India’s indigenous Covid-19 vaccine Covaxin.

As per Dr Samiran Panda, the head of epidemiology and communicable diseases at ICMR, this mutation of the virus was expected. According to scientists, this small change, which is called drift, does not create a pandemic-like situation.

“This mutant is known to be transmitted fast, but that does not mean they are virulent. So, I am not really worried as a mutant cannot cause any public health threat,” said Dr Panda.

ICMR is confident that Covaxin will work against the new strain which is also spreading in India. “Looking at the structure of the mutant and the nature of protection Covaxin offers, we can say that our vaccine will work against the new variant of Covid-19,” Dr Panda opined.

As per news reports, even top US infectious diseases expert Dr Anthony Fauci has said that data ascertained from the UK indicates the vaccines will still block the virus.

On the new strain, UK government’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty has said, “There is no current evidence to suggest the new strain causes a higher mortality rate or that it affects vaccines and treatments although urgent work is underway to confirm this.”

Hence, it can be confirmed that the viral claim saying the new mutant of coronavirus found in the UK is caused by a vaccine is false.

India Today Anti Fake News War Room has found that UK approved Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine on Dec 2, and started the vaccination process on Dec 8. The new Covid variant emerged in the UK in Sept 2020, suggesting it has no connection with the vaccine.