Fact Check: San Diego Lab Says It Has Created Coronavirus Vaccine In Three Hours

Hoax Alert

  • by: Ryan Cooper

Did a San Diego laboratory create a novel coronavirus vaccine in three hours? Yes, it says it did just that, and here is some context: Vaccines at Inovio Pharmaceuticals do not contain the virus but instead contain DNA sequences. Lead Stories reached out to Inovio, and the company explained how its research differs from traditional vaccines.

The claim originated from a video post (archived here) published by sportstertainment on February 20, 2020, under the title "San Diego Lab Discovers COVID 19 Vaccine in 3 Hours." The text surrounding the video reads:

San Diego Lab Discovers
COVID-19 Vaccine in 3 Hours
Thanks God

Screenshot of https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MVdCOXyl9Vw

Users on social media saw this:

The YouTube post included a video report from News 8, the CBS affiliate in San Diego. In the piece, the reporter spoke with Dr. Trevor Smith, who is the director of research and development at Inovio. He said:

We have an algorithm which we designed, and we put the DNA sequence into our algorithm and came up with the vaccine in that short amount of time.

For more context on the discovery, Lead Stories reached out to Jeff Richardson, vice president of strategic relations at Inovio. He provided this statement:

Inovio's DNA vaccines are different than traditional vaccines which use the same process in use for the past 75 years.

Our vaccines do not contain the virus....just DNA sequences. This is one reason we can move so quickly. Once the Chinese government put up the sequence of the virus....we made a construct of our DNA vaccine in about 3 hours after that...then to manufacturing the DNA vaccine...then into preclinical studies all with a few weeks. [We] hope to be in humans late Spring early summer.

According to the Los Angeles Times, it may take even longer before the vaccine gets FDA approval:

Even so, it could take years for Inovio's synthetic vaccine to clear the testing required by regulators before it can join the fight against the novel coronavirus.

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  Ryan Cooper

Ryan Cooper, a staff writer and fact-checker for Lead Stories, is the former Director of Programming at CNN International, where he helped shape the network's daily newscasts broadcast to more than 280 million households around the world. He was based at the network's Los Angeles Bureau. There, he managed the team responsible for a three-hour nightly program, Newsroom LA.

Formerly, he worked at the headquarters in Atlanta, and he spent four years at the London bureau. An award-winning producer, Cooper oversaw the network's Emmy Award-winning coverage of the uprising in Egypt in 2011. He also served as a supervising producer during much of the network's live reporting on the Israel-Hezbollah conflict in 2006, for which CNN received an Edward R. Murrow Award.

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