Old image shared alongside false claim that the Sinovac vaccine is only for 'clinical trial'

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Multiple Facebook and Twitter posts in Indonesia claim that Sinovac Covid-19 vaccines distributed in the country's inoculation drive are unsafe as they are marked "for clinical trial" only. The claim is false; the posts show a photo of the Sinovac vaccine packaging from August 2020, when the vaccine was not yet available to the public.

"HAVE YOU BEEN VACCINATED?" reads this Indonesian-language Facebook post from July 4, 2021.

"Take a look at the packaging of the Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine that is being injected into citizens. It clearly says: "Only for clinical trial" (Only for clinical trial, in other words, only for guinea pigs)."

It shows a package of Sinovac's Covid-19 vaccine with the words "Only for Clinical Trial" visible on the packet.

Screenshot of the misleading post, taken on November 16, 2021

Indonesia's Covid-19 vaccination drive kicked off on January 13, 2021, using the CoronaVac vaccine, produced by Chinese biopharmaceutical firm Sinovac Biotech, after it was approved for emergency use.

The image was shared with a similar claim on Facebook here, here and here, and on Twitter here and here.

However, the claim is false.

A reverse image search on Google, followed by keyword searches, found the photo was taken by the Associated Press (AP) news agency in Brazil on August 5, 2020.

Screenshot of the genuine photo on the AP Images website

The photo's caption reads: "Dr. Gustavo Romero, of University Hospital of Brasilia’s Nucleus of Tropical Medicine, presents to the press China’s Sinovac Biotech experimental vaccine for the new coronavirus before it is administered to volunteers in Brasilia, Brazil, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. According to a statement from the University Hospital, 850 volunteers, including health professionals, will receive shots starting Wednesday as part of a study on whether the experimental vaccine works."

Below is a screenshot comparison between the genuine AP photo (L) and the image in the misleading post (R):

Screenshot comparison between the genuine AP photo (L) and the image in the misleading post (R)

The AP photo appeared in this opinion piece, published by the Washington Post on August 5, 2020.

Pearson Liu, senior brand director for Sinovac Biotech, said the vaccine in the photo was used during the third phase of clinical trials for the Sinovac vaccine in August 2020.

"The vaccine was not for public use," he told AFP.

A spokesman for Bio Farma, an Indonesian state-owned vaccine manufacturer that partners with Sinovac Biotech, also said that the packaging for the vaccine reading "only for clinical trial" was used during the clinical trials in August 2020.

"As for the packaging that has since been used for the vaccine, it no longer has the 'only for clinical trial' label," Bio Farma's head of corporate communications Iwan Setiawan told AFP.

As of November 23, 2021, more than 135 million people in Indonesia have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine — with more than 90 million people already fully vaccinated, according to official figures.

AFP has debunked various false claims that hit the vaccination campaign in the Southeast Asian country, including that getting vaccinated increased the risk of catching the virus and that it caused erectile dysfunction.

COVID-19 VACCINES