An image shared by a Twitter user claims that pregnant cows are slaughtered to produce COVID-19 vaccine. This is done to extract Fetal Bovine Serum (FBS) which is used in the production of many vaccines, reads the image. Additionally, it claims that AIIMS used FBS (supplied by Himedia) in the isolation of SARS-CoV-2, and now ICMR in association with Bharat Biotech is using FBS to produce COVID-19 vaccine.
Shared on 1 December, the Twitter user’s caption with the image reads, “Dear #Bhakts now you please don’t boycott vaccine.”
Fact Check/ Verification
We first did a Google reverse image search of the post which led us to a website called journalisteye.com. The link includes a paragraph on Fetal Bovine Serum, the same one as seen in the claim’s image.
Next, the reverse image search led us to a website called biswaroop.com. The site includes information curated by the Youtube doctor Biswaroop Roy Chowdhury.
We think the claim originated from this website.
On 15 March, “Chowdhury told the audience (via Skype) that the novel coronavirus was only a flu and that it was being marketed as a pandemic by big pharmaceutical corporations with vested interests in doing so,” writes Rest of World.
The article further states that “Chowdhury misquoted a study by The New England Journal of Medicine as saying that the fatality rate of Covid-19 was 0.1%. “It can be cured by making a small intervention in your diet,” he asserted.”
Earlier in 2015, The Hindu called Chowdhury a “fraud” for claiming to cure diabetes in 72 hours. The article states that the Delhi Medical Association had written to the then Health Minister, Satyendra Jain, warning him about such events. It further states that “Dr. Anil Bansal, chairman of the Delhi Medical Council’s Anti-Quackery Cell, said, “What is being allowed is illegal. People should be warned against such activity. There is no cure for diabetes. The man claims to be the author of 25 books and is offering cure for an incurable disease.”
With regards to the description (in the claim) of how FBS is obtained, it is true. But due to ethical concerns and cruelty of the process, “scientists shifted to the use of serum from newborn calves. In this case, blood is collected from the calf within three to 10 days of its birth,” writes The Print.
In a preprint of a study on Covaxin done by the Indian Council of Medical Research and Bharat Biotech, scientists mentioned that one of the ingredients they used is blood serum from newborn cattle. The study provides details on how the vaccine was developed.
However, the study does not mention the use of FBS in producing the COVID-19 vaccine. We’ve reached out to the principal investigator of the study at Bharat Biotech as well as ICMR for clarification. This copy will be updated as and when we receive a response from them.
While Fetal Bovine Serum has previously been used in the production of vaccines, the recent claim on ICMR in association with Bharat Biotech using it to produce COVID-19 vaccine is misleading.
Study by ICMR & Bharat Biotech: https://www.researchsquare.com/article/rs-65715/v1