Categories ChinaHealthVaccines

Publish Date (HKT) 2021-06-08

[FALSE] Did The New York Times report the four safest COVID-19 vaccines are all Chinese ones?

Screenshot of the Facebook post

The Claim and Our Verdict

  • The claim: A Facebook post published May 20, 2021, claims that the top four safest COVID-19 vaccines are from China, according to a New York Times’s news report.
  • Fact-checking:
    • The New York Times (NYT) article is labeled as “opinion” and should not be regarded as a piece of news. The authors are not NYT’s journalists, either.
    • There is no such information about safety ranking of COVID-19 vaccines in this article, neither was such information found after searching the NYT’s website.
    • In a tweet published March 10, 2021, NYT debunked the misinformation of purported COVID-19 safety ranking published by it.
  • Our ruling: Therefore, we rate the claim as FALSE.

News Brief

A Facebook post published 20 May, 2021, claims that The New York Times (NYT) reports Chinese vaccines ranked the top four safest vaccines in which the top two vaccines are manufactured by Sinopharm. The top four Chinese vaccines purported in the claim are: 1. 國藥 2. Sinovac 3. 科興 4. 信諾 (Translation: 1. Sinopharm 2. Sinovac 3. Sinovac* 4.San-nok#).

*Sinovac is the English name of 科興.
#San-nok is not a vaccine’s name.

As of the issuance of this report, the post had been shared 26 times and had received 3 comments and 45 “mood responses.”


The Facebook post quoted a NYT article published on February 5, 2021. The article is co-authored by Achal Prabhala who is an Indian public health activist promoting wider distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, and Chee Yoke Ling who is a Malaysian public interest lawyer who has worked for a decade on improving access to medicines in China, according to the article’s byline.

It is inaccurate to say, “The New York Times reports…,” as the article is labelled as an “opinion” not a news report. A write-up or commentary (often labelled as opinion to differentiate it from news report) should not be regarded as a piece of news, because it is the author’s written opinion rather than factual information about an event. The authors are not NYT’s journalists, neither are they media or journalism practitioners.

It should be noted that the screenshot enclosed in the post was manipulated — the “opinion” label was cropped from the original article (see the comparison of the screenshots below)

Screenshots comparison between the one attached in the misleading post (L) and the one of original article (R).

In addition, according to Sinovac Biotech’s official website, there is currently only one COVID-19 vaccine developed and manufactured by Sinovac with the brand name CoronaVac®. It is colloquially described as Sinovac vaccine (科興疫苗). Therefore, the purported second and third safest vaccines in the claim both refer to the Sinovac vaccine, while only the first one refers to Sinopharm vaccine rather than the first and second. After searching the internet, we found the fourth one “San-nok” (信諾) is not even a vaccine name. Thus, it can be concluded that the ranking list in the claim is manipulated information.

We thoroughly reviewed NYT’s article. No such information about the safety ranking of COVID-19 vaccines was found, neither was its Chinese version. On searching the NYT’s official website, no such article about COVID-19 vaccines’ safety ranking was found, either.

NYT published a tweet on March 10, 2021, debunking the misinformation of a false safety ranking of COVID-19 vaccines attributed to it. “This message is misleading and untrue. The NYT did not publish this list, our reporting has not suggested that Chinese vaccines are superior to vaccines produced elsewhere, nor have we published claims that China has exported more than 500 million doses,” says the tweet.

The New York Times’s official tweet debunking the misinformation.


Therefore, we rate the claim as FALSE.