False claims that the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine was developed before the pandemic have been circulating online for the past two weeks. These claims are based on an agreement between Moderna, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) that outlines the terms for transferring research materials related to coronavirus RNA vaccine between the institutions. Because the agreement was signed prior to WHO notification of COVID-19 in China, it is being used as proof of a “plandemic,” the conspiracy theory that the COVID-19 pandemic was planned. According to a spokesperson from the NIAID, the agreement pertained to vaccine candidates against another coronavirus, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), and not SARS-CoV-2. NIAID and Moderna have been collaborating on coronavirus vaccine research since 2017, well before the identification of SARS-CoV-2.
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