On December 6, World Health Organisation (WHO) chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan told Business Standard that Pfizer and BioNtech are in the final stages of talks with the WHO to join the Covax alliance for coronavirus vaccines. According to BBC, BioNtech was founded by Turkish-descendant couple Uğur Şahin and Özlem Türec and Professor Christoph Huber, an Austrian cancer expert.

In the backdrop of this, Twitter user @richardsennett (archived link) shared an image of a family and wrote, “This is an immigrant family, newly arrived in Germany. The boy in the yellow shirt will go on to invent the COVID vaccine.” Sennett’s bio links to his website which states he is a senior advisor at the United Nations (UN) and a visiting professor at MIT. His tweet was retweeted over 13,000 times and gained over 75,000 likes.

This image has been shared by multiple users on Facebook along with the above-mentioned text.

Fact-check

Using advanced search on Twitter, we found that @richardsennett was the first account that posted this image along with the text, “This is an immigrant family, newly arrived in Germany. The boy in the yellow shirt will go on to invent the COVID vaccine.”

Next, we performed a reverse image search on TinEye using InVid, an image verification browser plugin and found that it was published on the website of US-based Harvard Art Museums.

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The title of the image on Harvard Art Museums is ‘Turks in Germany 1979’ and it is a part of the slide projection art installation that was displayed between September 2019 and January 2020. Further in the image description, it is mentioned that it was sold to the Busch-Reisinger Museum in 2019 by Galerie Thomas Zander. The description added the credit and copyright as Harvard Art Museums/Busch-Reisinger Museum, Francis H. Burr Memorial Fund and Candida Höfer / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, NY respectively. The website doesn’t state that the image shows the family of Uğur Şahin or Özlem Türec.

A spokesperson at Harvard Art Museums told Alt News, “The photograph was taken by the German artist Candida Höfer in the 1970s. This photo does not, to our knowledge, depict BioNtech Uğur Şahin.”

It is pertinent to note that on November 10, Muslim Mirror (archive link) claimed that the boy in a yellow t-shirt is Şahin along with his family. UK-based member of parliament Naz Shah (archived linked) also shared this article.

On November 17, the claim was refuted by Twitter account DiasporaTürk, that posts about Turkish heritage and literature. As per DiasporaTürk, the boy grew up to become a mechanic, specifically a lathe-levelling professional.

As per The New York Times, Şahin moved to Germany along with his mother when he was four. At the time, his father was working at a Ford factory in Cologne. While Türec was born in Germany, she is the daughter of a Turkish physician who immigrated from Istanbul.

Therefore, an image of a Turkish family was shared on social media with the claim that it is the family picture of BioNTech co-founder Uğur Şahin.

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About the Author

Archit is a fact-checking journalist at Alt News since November 2019. Previously, he has worked as a producer at a TV news channel and as a reporter at a leading English-language daily. In addition to work experience in media, he has also worked as a fundraising and communication manager at an NGO.