A strange claim has been doing the rounds on social media since early this week which says that Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said that the company's two-dose Covid vaccine provided limited or almost no protection against the virus. This immediately gave anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theorists a chance to respond with outrage with many claiming that the vaccine is a farse and the coronavirus is an overblown thing.
However, the claim is absolutely false and baseless and is a distorted version of what Bourla said. Bourla actually talked about the efficacy of the vaccine only in context to the newly discovered Omicron variant as the effectiveness of the vaccine is not known since the variant is new.
Bourla has often been made a target of misinformation almost throughout the pandemic. On January 10, after Bourla gave an interview to Yahoo! Finance's Anjalee Khemlani and the two were discussing about the efficacy of the Pfizer-BioNTech's two-dose Covid-19 vaccine.
However, soon after the interview was over, several social media users especially vaccine skeptics started making a claim that Bourla had said that Pfizer-BioNTech two-dose Covid-19 vaccine offered "limited" or "almost no protection" against the deadly virus. Anti-vaxxers and commentors poured in their outrage against Bourla, with the claim instantly going viral.
Commentator Jordan Schachtel tweeted: "Pfizer CEO now says 2 COVID shots 'offer very limited protection, if any,' protection against COVID-19". In no time several other started posting clips, which mostly showed only a portion of what Bourla said. Bourla can be heard saying in the clip: "We know that the two doses of the vaccine offer very limited protection, if any."
However, people started believing in what they saw and heard without even realizing that it was only a clip from the entire interview and what Bourla said was in a different context altogether.
What's the Truth?
Bourla did say in his interview, "We know that the two doses of the vaccine offer very limited protection, if any" but there is little truth in context to the claim being made on social media. To put it in simple words, the claim is completely false as Bourla comments were in context to only the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
In reality, Bourla never said that Pfizer's two-dose vaccine offered limited or no protection against Covid-19. Instead, he was speaking quite specifically about the Omicron variant which is substantively different proposition given that the variant emerged after the development and distribution of the original vaccine.
During the interview, Khemlani and Bourla were discussing the impact of the Omicron variant and Bourla comments were clearly made in context to the Omicron variant, and that he was not articulating a more general assessment of the efficacy of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
It further becomes clear if the full interview is watched.
This is how the exchange went between Khemlani and Bourla:
Khemlani: We know that here in the U.S.,...we've had discussions about boosters coming this fall, and we're watching the Omicron wave really surge in certain parts of the country as well as the world. Tell me what you're seeing in terms of the potential for possibly changing how we look at boosters and what kinds of boosters you anticipate â I know you're working on an Omicron-specific booster as well, right now. So what's at stake for us in the Fall of '22?
Bourla: Clearly the situation has...deteriorated because of the Omicron [variant]. We had a very quick [inaudible]. It is a disease that manifests a little bit less in terms of mildness â I mean it's more mild, but you know, because of the...high [infection] rates, still the [hospitalizations] and absolute numbers are going much higher in terms of severe disease, ICU [intensive care unit] occupation, etc...
And we know that the...two [doses] of the vaccine offer very limited protection, if any. The three doses â with a booster â they offer reasonable protection against hospitalization and deaths. Against deaths, I think [the three doses are] very good, and [they provide] less protection against infection. Now, we are working on a new version of our vaccine...that will cover Omicron as well. And of course we're waiting to [get] the final results, [but] the vaccine will be ready in March, and the vaccine, we'll be able to produce it [on a massive scale].
Understandably, Bourla only said about the efficacy of Pfizer-BioNTech's two-dose vaccine in context to only Omicron. Thus, the claim is completely false and baseless and is distorted by the vaccine-skeptic people and conservatives.