Social media posts claiming US President Donald Trump announced that Swiss diagnostics and drugmaker Roche will launch a vaccine against the Coronavirus soon and that millions of doses were already ready, are misleading and false.
The video going viral with the posts merely shows Matthew Sause, President and CEO, Roche Diagnostics (North America), thanking the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the United States, for providing Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) or emergency approval for Roche's cobas SARS-CoV-2 test, that will be used to detect SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 disease.
This means the company was granted emergency approval to roll out a diagnostics test for the virus and not approval for a vaccine. Furthermore, the WHO estimated in February that the first vaccine could take around 18 months to be ready.
BOOM received the message on its WhatsApp helpline with the caption: "Trump announced that Roche Medical Company will launch the vaccine next Sunday, and millions of doses are ready from it !!! The end of the play"
The message was accompanied by the following video:
Searching for the caption on Twitter, we found that it was viral on the microblogging site as well.
BOOM searched for the keywords "Roche Coronavirus Vaccine" and came across news reports from March 13 about testing company Roche Diagnostics getting rapid approval and support from the FDA and CDC to provide a new testing solution to health researchers around the world, that is expected to speed up the testing process by tenfold.
We found a longer version of the video uploaded by the White House's official YouTube channel on March 13, which shows a press conference organised by the White House. At the 18:39 mark you can see the segment of the video that is viral on WhatsApp, where Roche Diagnostics CEO Matthew Sause thanks the FDA and the CDC for the timely approval of "emergency use authorisation" for testing the coronavirus, in presence of Trump.
In a press release dated March 13, 2020 Roche said the test would help to detect SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 disease, using swab samples of patients. Hospitals and laboratories could run the test using Roche's systems which are widely available in the US and around the world, the company said.
The company also explained that the cobas SARS-CoV-2 Test has not been FDA cleared or approved.The test has been authorised only for the detection of RNA from SARS-CoV-2 virus and diagnosis of SARS-CoV-2 virus infection, not for any other viruses or pathogens, Roche said. (Read the full statement here)
What about the vaccines? On February 11, WHO Direct General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced that "the first vaccine could be ready in 18 months".
Researchers from around the world are meeting at @WHO for a research & innovation forum on #COVID19. The first vaccine could be ready in 18 months, In the meantime, there's a lot we can do to prevent transmission and prepare for any further spread.https://t.co/7uXYj2KxF3— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) February 11, 2020
Associated Press reported that researchers at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Research Institute in Seattle conducted the first-stage study of a potential COVID-19 vaccine, which is being tested on volunteers. "Even if the research goes well, a vaccine would not be available for widespread use for 12 to 18 months," Dr. Anthony Fauci of the U.S. National Institutes of Health told AP.
Meanwhile the US administration along with Trump have faced severe criticism for playing down the seriousness of the outbreak and not testing enough.