A University of Oxford zoology expert who became one of the first humans in Europe to receive a dose of a potential Covid-19 vaccine has been forced to deny fake news reports she had died
Elisa Granato was the first volunteer to be injected, says she is “doing fine” despite a rumour claiming she had died.
The University of Oxford Microbiologist Dr Elisa Granato was one of two people to be injected on Thursday as human trials got underway just three months after studies began.
More than 800 people have been recruited for the trial which would break records if claims it could deliver a marketable by September are met.
Dr Granato told the BBC after being injected on her 32nd birthday: “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.”
But rumours began circulating earlier today that efforts had been hit by a tragic set back.
An online article, soon debunked as fake news, claimed the zoology expert had died hours after having the injection after experiencing complications.
It falsely claimed she had pre-existing medical conditions that had not been disclosed to doctors carrying out the tests and that four others were “battling complications”.
The spread of the article forced Dr Granato to take to Twitter to inform her 6,000 followers she was very much alive.
She said: “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!”
Mirror Online has approached Dr Granato for a comment.
Dr Granato said she is doing fine.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care later tweeted: “News circulating on social media that the first volunteer in a UK coronavirus vaccine trial has died is completely untrue.”
Of those chosen for the Oxford trial half will receive the Covid-19 vaccine, and half will receive a control vaccine that protects against meningitis – but not coronavirus.
The design of the trial means patients will not know which vaccine they have received, but medics will.
Sarah Gilbert, professor of vaccinology at the Jenner Institute, led the pre-trial research and said she was 80% confident the vaccine would be effective.
She said: “Personally I have a high degree of confidence in this vaccine.
“Of course, we have to test it and get data from humans.
“We have to demonstrate it actually works and stops people getting infected with coronavirus before using the vaccine in the wider population.”
The vaccine is made from a weakened version of the common cold virus taken from chimpanzees and has been adapted so it cannot grow in humans.
After being injected into the patient, it enters the cells which start to produce coronavirus proteins.
This then kick-starts the immune system, prompting it to produce antibodies to activate killer T-cells that destroy the infection.
If a patient goes to encounter coronavirus again, the same antibodies and T-cells are triggered to target and stamp out the virus.
In the coming months the two groups will be compared to see if the trial has been successful.
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Professor Andrew Pollard, leading the trial, said: “We’re chasing the end of this epidemic wave.
“If we don’t catch it we won’t be able to tell whether the vaccine works in the next few months.
“But we do expect there will be more cases in the future because this virus hasn’t gone away.”
The team working on the vaccine has previously successfully developed a vaccine against Mers (Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome) which killed more than 400 people in 2012.
To date coronavirus has killed more than 200,000 globally and infected almost 3 million.
A larger trial of around 5,000 people is expected to be launched in the next few months.
(The Mirror, UK)