This image has circulated in reports about China testing a potential COVID-19 vaccine that has not been approved by health authorities

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An image has been shared in multiple posts on Facebook and Twitter alongside a claim that it shows China administering the "world's first new coronavirus vaccine" after the global outbreak of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. The claim is misleading; the photos in this image have circulated in reports about China testing a potential COVID-19 vaccine.

The image was published here on Facebook on March 7, 2020.

It features one photo of an individual wearing a white gown administering an injection into the arm of another person dressed in military fatigues. It also features a second image of seven people dressed in military fatigues and masks. 

Below is a screenshot of the misleading post on Facebook:

Screenshot of misleading Facebook post

The English and Chinese text in the image reads: “First shot of Covid-19 vaccine developed by China. The postgraduate research team leader took the first shot. The world’s first new coronavirus vaccine was injected into the left arm of the lead researcher, Dr Chen Wei, today. Seven medical volunteers, all members of the Communist Party also received the new Coronavirus vaccine. State Council Vice Premier Sun Chunlan visited Chen Wei and the expertise team members.”

COVID-19 was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019. It has since spread worldwide, killing at least 13,000 and infecting 300,000 others, according to this AFP report dated March 22, 2020.

The image was also shared here, here, here, here and here on Facebook, here, here, here and here on Twitter and here on Instagram, alongside a similar claim.

The claim is misleading.

Chinese state media organisation The People’s Daily published this tweet on March 5, 2020 which labels the claim “FAKENEWS”, alongside a link to this post on its Facebook page.

The Facebook post reads, in part: “PLA medics are not testing #COVID19 vaccines on themselves, as some would have you believe. 

“Photos of a female PLA medic getting a shot have gone viral on the Internet and have made many people wonder if the Chinese PLA is testing a coronavirus vaccine on themselves... the human clinical trial assumption is simply fake news.”

The post was published alongside a photo identical to that seen in the misleading image. The People’s Daily states the photo shows Chen Wei, an academician at China’s People's Liberation Army, receiving a shot for “strengthening immunity” before her departure to Wuhan to join the aid effort.

Below is a screenshot of the Facebook post:

Screenshot of The People’s Daily's Facebook post

Below is screenshot comparison of the photo from the misleading Facebook post (L) and the photo from the People’s Daily Facebook post (R):

Screenshot comparison of the photo from the misleading Facebook post (L) and the photo from the People’s Daily Facebook post (R)

This Global Times report dated March 4, 2020 states Chen was sent to Wuhan, and “achieved a major breakthrough in developing a vaccine to the novel coronavirus”.

The report states, in part: “The military medical expert team has worked in Wuhan, the coronavirus epicenter, for more than a month, and the team led by Chen Wei, academician at the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Academy of Military Medical Sciences, is seizing every minute and second and focusing all efforts on this emergency scientific research”.

China announced on March 17, 2020 that it will start human trials for a COVID-19 vaccine manufactured by Chen’s team.

This Global Times report published on the same date reads in part: “The coronavirus vaccine developed by Chen's team passed the registration review of clinical research and was approved for clinical trial on Monday night.”

“After arriving at Wuhan, Chen Wei, a Chinese military major general, and her team launched pharmacy, pharmaceutical and toxicological research on COVID-19 vaccine in cooperation with local companies, based on their previous successful experiences in developing Ebola vaccine.”

“Chen, the military scientist, was quoted as saying in the report that the vaccine has been tested on safety, effectiveness and quality control and is prepared for massive production. And the biotechnology firm has started to recruit volunteers for the vaccine.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) has said there is currently no medicine that can prevent or treat COVID-19.

The Q&A section of its website reads, in part: “To date, there is no vaccine and no specific antiviral medicine to prevent or treat COVID-2019… Possible vaccines and some specific drug treatments are under investigation. They are being tested through clinical trials. WHO is coordinating efforts to develop vaccines and medicines to prevent and treat COVID-19.”