Pfizer’s CEO said he will get Covid-19 jab – when it’s his rightful turn

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An extract from a TV interview with Pfizer's chief executive Albert Bourla is being shared online alongside the claim that the head of the pharmaceutical giant refused to take the Covid-19 vaccine manufactured by his company because “my type is not recommended”. This is misleading; Bourla only said he will not jump the queue to get the shot. He will wait until his age group is eligible; current government guidelines prioritize high-risk individuals and seniors.

A Facebook post, shared more than 200 times and archived here, features a TikTok clip taken from an interview of Bourla on the US news network CNBC.

“The chairman/CEO of Pfizer, the company that produces the COVID419 vaccine, Albert Bourla, says he will not take the vaccine,” reads the caption on the post. “... in fact in his words he said and I quote: ‘...MY TYPE IS NOT RECOMMENDED TO TAKE THE VACCINE…’ (sic)”.

Screenshot taken on January 28, 2021, showing the misleading post

The post from a Nigerian page expresses strong anti-vaccine sentiments, claiming vaccine distribution is a plan by “the devil” to deceive Christians.

Pfizer CEO’s words twisted

The video clip shared with the post shows Bourla discussing his company’s vaccine for Covid-19 in an interview on CNBC. In the clip, he urges those who are undecided about getting the shot to trust the science behind it.

Contrary to the post’s claim, Bourla commits to getting the jab, but adds that he will follow the government's recommended schedule for people in his age group and with his health profile.

“As soon as I can, I will,” Bourla said. “The only sensitivity here is that I don't want to have an example that I am cutting the line. I’m 59 years old, in good health; I am not working in the frontline. My type is not recommended to get the vaccination now.” The final word “now” is omitted in the Facebook post's text.

The complete version of the interview, posted on CNBC's YouTube channel on December 14, 2020, gives accurate context to Bourla’s comments.

He explained that according to a poll conducted by Pfizer, more people would accept the vaccine if they saw the company’s CEO and staff take the jab. Bourla noted that he and his employees would receive the vaccine according to the recommended timeline.

In another interview with CNN in mid-December, Bourla repeated that he had not yet taken the vaccine, again stating that he was following vaccination recommendations recommendations from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) giving first preference to selected groups, none of which included him.

According to the CDC, the initial supply of Covid-19 vaccines should be allocated to healthcare workers and long-term care facility residents, followed by frontline essential workers (for example firefighters and police officers) and people 75 and older.

Those aged 65 to 74 would be next in line, along with people 16-64 who have underlying medical conditions, and other essential workers.

On January 25, 2021, Bourla tweeted a picture of his father-in-law who had been vaccinated. “At 84, he is high-risk & graciously waited his turn in Greece,” read Bourla’s tweet.

More than 86 million doses have been administered globally as of January 29, 2021, according to an AFP tally. More than 26 million of those are in the US.