An Israeli scientist works at a laboratory at the MIGAL Research Institute in Kiryat Shmona in the upper Galilee in northern Israel on March 1, 2020 where efforts are underway to produce a vaccine against the COVID-19 coronavirus adapted from another for infectious bronchitis virus. (AFP / Jalaa Marey)

Israeli scientists have not developed a COVID-19 vaccine -- they were still working to develop one in February 2020

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Multiple Facebook posts shared thousands of times in Sri Lanka claim that Israeli scientists have developed a vaccine against the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. The claim is misleading; Israel’s MIGAL Research Institute said in a press release in February 2020 that it was still working to develop a vaccine for COVID-19; the image of a vial labelled "coronavirus vaccine" in the misleading Facebook posts was taken from a stock photo website.

The post was published here on Facebook on March 2, 2020. It has been shared more than 2,500 times. 

It features a photo of a vial labelled “Coronavirus Vaccine” and Sinhala-language text, which translates to English as: “Israel discovers a vaccine against coronavirus. / Doctors of Israel - the home of medical research, has said they have received excellent results by giving the corona vaccine.”

Below is a screenshot of the misleading Facebook post: 

Screenshot of the Facebook post

The post was also shared here, here, here and here on Facebook alongside a similar claim.

The claim is misleading; Israel’s state-funded MIGAL Research Institute announced that it has developed a vaccine against Infectious Bronchitis Virus, a strain of coronavirus affecting poultry. The institute added that this may be adapted to create a human vaccine against COVID-19, but is still “weeks away” from “completing safety approvals that will enable in-vivo testing”, ahead of a vaccine being produced. 

In a press release dated February 27, 2020, it said: “MIGAL’s researchers have developed an effective vaccine against avian coronavirus Infectious Bronchitis Virus (IBV), to be adapted soon and create a human vaccine against COVID-19.”

“Given the urgent global need for a human coronavirus vaccine, we are doing everything we can to accelerate development. Our goal is to produce the vaccine during the next 8-10 weeks, and to achieve safety approval in 90 days.”

The World Health Organization’s website also says “there is no vaccine and no specific antiviral medicine to prevent or treat COVID-2019” in this Q&A section of its website.

Below is a screenshot of the relevant section on the WHO website:

Screenshot of the WHO website Q&A on COVID-19 vaccine

A Google reverse image search for the photo in the misleading posts found it was previously published on the stock photography website Shutterstock here

The caption reads: "Coronavirus vaccine vial with injection syringe at the background."

"Coronavirus" is a general term for a group of viruses.

Below is a screenshot comparison between the photo misleading post (L) and the Shutterstock photo (R):

Screenshot comparison between the photo misleading post (L) and the Shutterstock photo (R)