Claim about Pfizer CEO’s description of vaccine leaves out important context

An Instagram post takes the Pfizer CEO’s remarks out of context to suggest he described his company’s COVID-19 vaccine as largely ineffective.

“Two doses of the vaccine provide very limited, if any, protection,” Jan. 13 Publish said, attributing the quote to “Pfizer CEO, Albert Bourla, January 10, 2022”.

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat fake news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Learn more about our partnership with facebook.)

The words are taken from a interview Bourla gave Yahoo Finance on January 10. He was asked about the wave of COVID-19 cases caused by the omicron variant of the virus.

Bourla explained how the omicron is milder, but highly infectious, which poses a challenge for the vaccine. But the quote in the post leaves out important context about what he was talking about. He was referring to how two doses of the vaccine specifically protected against infection with the omicron variant.

“We know that both doses of the vaccine provide very limited, if any, protection,” he said. “The three doses, with the booster, they provide reasonable protection against hospitalizations and death. Against death, I think very well, and less protection against infection.”

In another interview the same day on CNBC, Bourla spoke about the omicron wave and the need for better vaccine protection. He said Pfizer was working on a version of the vaccine that would provide “much, much better” protection against omicron, especially against infections. He said the new vaccine would be available in March.

“Protection against hospitalizations and serious illnesses is reasonable right now, with current vaccines, as long as you have, say, the third dose,” he said.

We contacted Pfizer but did not hear back immediately.

PolitiFact reported on how omicron spreads quickly and is more resistant to vaccine protection, although vaccines protect against serious disease from the virus.

Fact checkers at Reuters found that this claim lacked context, and snopes said it was mostly wrong.

Our decision

An Instagram post claims the Pfizer CEO said two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine offer “very little, if any, protection.”

The quote in the post was among remarks Bourla made in an interview. But he was referring specifically to the vaccine’s protection against infection with the omicron variant, not its effectiveness against COVID-19 in general. He also said that three doses protect against serious illnesses.

This claim contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. We rate it mostly wrong.

Comments are closed.