Debunked claim of children dying in Guinea from Covid-19 vaccine resurfaces

Copyright AFP 2017-2022. All rights reserved.

A YouTube video shared hundreds of times has resurfaced with an old claim that two children in Guinea died after receiving a Covid-19 vaccine. This is false; the video was based on a news report about Guinean children who fell ill in March 2019 after taking anti-parasite drugs. AFP Fact Check previously debunked this claim in May 2020, months before any Covid-19 vaccine contenders had been approved.

“Two school children already dead and others in serious conditions after French doctors injected them with Covid-19 Vaccine. This happened in a school in Guinea (sic),” reads the caption from a Facebook post published on January 20, 2021. 

Screenshot of a false Facebook post, taken on January 25, 2021

When this false claim first circulated in April 2020 (see here), Covid-19 vaccines were still in the early phases of development and none had been approved. There are now several vaccines being administered around the world following a host of clinical trials.

Pfizer BioNTech developed the first vaccine to be approved in the European Union, the United States and the United Kingdom. This was followed by the Moderna vaccine, also approved in the EU, the UK and the US. The UK also authorised the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, while Russia endorsed the use of its Sputnik V vaccine on December 26, 2020, as AFP reported.

As AFP Fact Check explained in the previous debunk, the YouTube video in the false post is a manipulation of an actual television report that featured two children who fell ill after receiving anti-parasite drugs as part of a national campaign in Guinea in 2019 – months before the first case of Covid-19 was discovered.

By running a reverse image search, AFP Fact Check traced the footage used in the YouTube video to an online report in French from March 2019, which had the headline: “Guinea: a vaccination campaign goes wrong.”

This online article included the video of the original TV broadcast about children falling ill from an anti-parasite inoculation, with the logo “Gangan News” in the bottom-left corner of the screen. This logo belongs to the Guinean TV channel Gangan RTV.

The original report by Gangan RTV can also be found on its Facebook page, dated March 18, 2019 – again, predating the pandemic.

According to several local news reports in French, none of the children who were reported to have fallen sick after taking the anti-parasite drug had died, either. Some “fainted”, “fell unconscious”, “vomited” or “fell into a coma”, but there were no reported fatalities.

Status of Covid-19 vaccines in Guinea

Guinea received 60 doses of the Russian-developed Sputnik V vaccine on December 30, 2020, as AFP reported. Guinean President Alpha Conde received the first dose of the vaccine on January 16, 2021. As of January 21, 25 people in Guinea had received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the United Nations. 

The country is part of the COVAX initiative, a collaboration between Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) and the World Health Organization, which seeks to develop and distribute Covid-19 vaccines more equitably across the globe. 

As of January 26, 2021, there have been 14,379 cases of Covid-19 in Guinea and 81 confirmed deaths, according to an AFP tally.