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Pfizer was tested for the contraction of COVID-19

Pfizer executive Janine Small's statement has been taken out of context

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Claim: Pfizer executive Janine Small confessed in a recent revelation that Pfizer was never tested for its impact on preventing disease transmission. 

Fact: Pfizer and German vaccine maker BioNTech published a study on the vaccine in 2020 for its approval from Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which did not include any data on transmission impact but confirmed that the vaccine has a 95% success rate in preventing contraction.

On 14 October 2022, Pro Pakistani posted an image on Instagram with the text that reads, “Pfizer’s Vaccine was Never Tested for Prevention of COVID-19’s Transmission: Executive”. The caption mentions that Janine Small, a senior Pfizer executive, told the European Union Parliament that the vaccine was never tested for its potential to prevent transmission. 

 

Fact or Fiction?

On 10 October 2022, Pfizer’s president of International Developed Markets, Janine Small, appeared in front of the European Parliament’s special COVID committee. Small appeared in place of Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, whose text messages about vaccine contract negotiations with European Commission President Ursaa von der Leyen are under investigation. 

During the hearing (at the 5:38 mark) Robert Roos from Netherlands asks the question “Was the Covid Pfizer vaccine tested on stopping the transmission of the virus beforeit entered the market? If not, please say it clearly. If yes, are you willing to share the data with this committee?” 

An hour later, when Small begins answering questions she responds to Roos, saying, “No. We had to really move at the speed of science to really understand what is happening in the market. And from that point of view we had to do everything at risk. I think Dr Bourla would say this to you himself, if not us, who?” She went on to further quote a recent Imperial College study which claims that during the first roll-out of the Pfizer vaccine, it managed to save the lives of 4 million people. 

However, this is not a recent revelation, as claimed by several posts on Facebook and Instagram and news articles. On 11 December 2020, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) shared a press release authorizing Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, “At this time, data are not available to make a determination about how long the vaccine will provide protection, nor is there evidence that the vaccine prevents transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from person to person.“ The press release also states, “The vaccine was 95% effective in preventing COVID-19 disease among these clinical trial participants with eight COVID-19 cases in the vaccine group and 162 in the placebo group.” This makes it clear that the vaccine was supposed to work on the disease and not the transmission of the pathogen itself. 

The official report on Phases 1-to-3 of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine trial can be found here. The report clearly states that the study was never meant to evaluate the vaccine’s potential to prevent transmission but, instead, would evaluate the “safety, tolerability, immunogenicity, and efficacy of Sars-COV-2-RNA vaccine candidates against COVID-19 in healthy individuals.” This means that the vaccine is supposed to work on individual immunity against contraction rather than preventing transmission.

For further clarity, Soch Fact Check spoke to Dr Faisal Mehmood, an infectious diseases specialist and associate professor at the Aga Khan University Karachi. He said “In vaccine trials, you don’t directly look at vaccine transmission, but you can very clearly and logically infer that the vaccines will reduce transmission. The percentage of people who got the vaccine and still got COVID was remarkably low.” He further added, “Those who got the vaccine and then contracted COVID after that, the amount of virus that was detected in them was much lower, which inadvertently means that it would transmit less.” He further explained why Small’s statement has no impact on the vaccine’s efficacy, saying, “Bottomline, yes, the vaccine was not tested for transmission directly but, we know that people who got the vaccine do not die as much or contract the disease as much from the clinical trial.”

 

Virality

Soch Fact Check conducted a CrowdTangle analysis for the 5-day period since 10 October 2022 to 14 October 2022 using the following search terms:

  • “Pfizer” “Janine Smalle” “transmission”

We found 457 posts on Facebook with over 14,696 interactions. Some of them can be found here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. On Instagram, we found 18 posts having gathered over 108,930 interactions on the platform. Some of the posts can be found here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here

Conclusion: Pfizer executive Janine Small clarified that Pfizer was tested for potential of contraction and not transmission. This fact-check was also done by another IFCN signatory, Politifact, which can be viewed here.

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