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COVID-19 isn’t an acronym for certificate of vaccination identification

May 20, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: The letters in COVID-19 stand for certificate of vaccination identification and 19 stands for AI, artificial intelligence.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. COVID-19 stands for “coronavirus disease 2019,” according to the World Health Organization, which named it in February.

THE FACTS: A Facebook post with more than 21,000 views circulating Wednesday claims the name “COVID” is an acronym for certificate of vaccination identification, a reference to a potential future vaccine for the novel coronavirus and a digital certificate indicating someone has been vaccinated. The post also suggests the ‘19’ in COVID-19 stands for the first and ninth letters of the alphabet, A and I, representing the words “artificial intelligence.”

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The post references Bill Gates’ assertions that in the future, there may be digital certificates in order to track who has been tested or vaccinated for the coronavirus. 

Gates did say in a March 18 Reddit forum that “eventually we will have some digital certificates” for this purpose. But social media posts have taken this statement out of context and claimed Gates wishes to implant microchips in humans or use digital tools around the coronavirus to increase surveillance of humans. 

There is no evidence Gates has any interest in using a digital certificate of vaccination to monitor the public. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation told the AP in an email the idea of digital certificates “relates to efforts to create an open source digital platform with the goal of expanding access to safe, home-based testing” for the virus.

False claims similar to these have circulated on social media platforms since the WHO introduced the name COVID-19 to describe the disease caused by the novel coronavirus earlier this year.

Dozens of posts online have falsely claimed the acronym stands for “Chinese Originated Viral Infectious Disease” or “Certificate of Vaccination Identification by Artificial Intelligence.” There is no evidence for any of these claims.

According to AP coverage, the WHO chose the name COVID-19 as shorthand for “coronavirus disease 2019” after consulting with the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Organization for Animal Health.

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In selecting a name, the WHO avoided anything that sounded similar to any geographical location, animal, individual or group of people, according to WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. The name also had to be related to the disease and pronounceable.

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This is part of The Associated Press’ ongoing effort to fact-check misinformation that is shared widely online, including work with Facebook to identify and reduce the circulation of false stories on the platform.

Here’s more information on Facebook’s fact-checking program: https://www.facebook.com/help/1952307158131536