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First to get COVID-19 vaccine in UK were not ‘crisis actors’

December 11, 2020 GMT

CLAIM: First two recipients of the COVID-19 vaccine in Britain are “crisis actors.” The image of the first person who was vaccinated on Dec. 8 was published in October, long before the vaccine was approved. The same nurse was photographed administering the vaccine to two people, in two locations 20 miles apart. 

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. Both Margaret Keenan, 90, and “Bill” William Shakespeare, 81, received their COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 8 at University Hospital Coventry. 

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THE FACTS: This week, multiple false posts surfaced on social media suggesting that Keenan and Shakespeare, the first two people to be vaccinated with the COVID-19 Pfizer-BioNTech shot were “crisis actors.” 

Britain was the first country in the world to deliver the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to the general public. Nurse May Parsons first administered the vaccine to Keenan, and Shakespeare was the second to be injected. 

One Twitter post falsely claimed that an image of Keenan being vaccinated first appeared on CNN in October: “Excuse me, but how is the exact same person who’s the ‘first to get vaccinated’ today...also in a CNN photo wearing the exact same clothes, in the exact same chair, and getting a shot back in October? Which one of these lying stories did you want us to pretend is true?” the post had over 6,000 retweets. 

A screenshot of the tweet was also posted on Facebook where it was shared more than 1,300 times by Thursday. 

The post compares two screenshots. One shows a BBC story dated Dec. 8 featuring an image of Keenan receiving the vaccine. The second screenshot shows an Oct. 22 CNN article titled: “Faulty US Covid-19 response meant 130,000 to 210,000 avoidable deaths, report finds.” The CNN article includes an image from a video that shows Keenan receiving her shot. 

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But the video of Keenan receiving her shot was filmed on Dec. 8. When viewing articles on CNN.com, a video player automatically plays the latest news reports related to the topic. CNN readers who navigated to the October article this week were shown the recent video from the Dec. 8 vaccination on the same page.

Another post falsely claims that the nurse shown vaccinating Keenan and Shakespeare is not a real nurse because she was photographed in two different hospitals. 

“Busy nurse today working in Coventry and Stratford Upon Avon at the same time,” read the post, which featured photos of Keenan and Shakespeare being vaccinated by the same woman. 

“Crisis actors. I’m really hoping people start to wake up because we are headed into a fight for our lives…,” wrote one Facebook user who shared the post. 

In reality, Parsons vaccinated both Keenan and Shakespeare at University Hospital Coventry. It appears social media users misconstrued news reports noting that the hospital is 20 miles away from Stratford-Upon-Avon, the birthplace of dramatist and poet William Shakespeare. 

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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