Dr Elisa Granato, a microbiologist at the University of Oxford, who was one of the first volunteers in UK to be injected with a potential COVID-19 vaccine during human trials, is alive and well. Granato was injected with the vaccine during the vaccine's human trials conducted at the Oxford University on Thursday.
However, two days later, rumours relating to her death started doing the rounds on the internet. Under the first human trial of the coronavirus vaccine in Europe, two volunteers were injected, with more than 800 recruited for the trial still awaiting their dose.
In the trial program, while one-half of the volunteers will be receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, the other half would be injected with a vaccine that protects against meningitis but not coronavirus. Only the trial team will be aware of who receives which vaccine.
What led to the rumours about Granato's death?
Two days after being injected with the COVID-19 vaccine, a new article published by News NT reported about Granato's death. The article headlined, 'First Volunteer in UK Corona Virus Trial, Elisa Granato, Dies', was shared widely on social media, with many believing the news to be true.
Granato and cancer researcher Edward O'Neill were the first two volunteers to have received an injection of a vaccine called ChAdOx1 nCoV-19. The vaccine is made from a virus (ChAdOx1), which is a weakened version of a common cold virus (adenovirus) that causes infections in chimpanzees, that has been genetically changed so that it is impossible for it to grow in humans.
Speaking to BBC, Dr. Granato, who received the injectable vaccine on her 32nd birthday, said: "I'm a scientist, so I wanted to try to support the scientific process wherever I can. Since I don't study viruses, I felt a bit useless these days, so I felt like this is a very easy way for me to support the cause."
The false news claimed that Elisa developed complications a few hours after taking the vaccine and died while on admission. It also stated that the researchers believed that Elisa had an underlying health condition that was not disclosed to health officials prior to the trials. Quoting unnamed researchers, the publication said: "The four in critical conditions will be fine and these are expected reactions from the vaccines, hence a trial."
Granato takes to Twitter to quash her death rumors
The viral fake news forced the microbiologist to issue a public statement on Twitter. "Nothing like waking up to a fake article on your death... I'm doing fine everyone. Please don't share the article in question, we don't want to give them attention / clicks. Have a cute cat instead!" tweeted Dr. Granato. She later went on to post a video while having a cup of tea on Sunday.
Confirming the news to be fake, in a confirmation given to the Reuters the University of Oxford News Office said that Dr. Granato is "alive and well".
Later, a spokesperson for the UK's Department of Health and Social Care tweeted: "News circulating on social media that the first volunteer in a UK coronavirus vaccine trial has died is completely untrue."