WHO director Dr Tedros has been vaccinated

22 August 2022
What was claimed

WHO Director Dr Tedros said he hasn’t been vaccinated in a recorded interview.

Our verdict

This is not true. Dr Tedros has been vaccinated. The unedited version of this conversation shows him explaining that he delayed receiving the vaccine until it was available in poorer countries.

Claims that World Health Organisation (WHO) director Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that he hasn’t received the Covid-19 vaccine have been circulating on social media.

The claims stem from a video shared widely on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok which supposedly shows that “WHO Director Dr Tedros says he hasn’t been vaccinated”.

This isn’t true. The clip is from an edited interview in which Dr Tedros confirmed that he had been vaccinated, but had chosen to delay receiving the vaccine as a form of protest against the slower vaccine rollout in poorer countries.

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Dr Tedros has been vaccinated

Dr Tedros has confirmed on multiple occasions that he has received the Covid-19 vaccine. In a tweet posted on 12 May 2021, he shared a photo of himself being vaccinated, writing “Today it was my turn to get vaccinated @Hopitaux_unige against #COVID19. Vaccines save lives. It’s critical to get them to all counties A.S.A.P. If like me you live in a country where vaccines are available, please get vaccinated when it’s your turn.”

He further confirmed he’d received the vaccine in an interview with Science magazine published on 18 June 2021.

The clip on which the claims that Dr Tedros has not been vaccinated are based is taken from the same interview, which was filmed and also included in an HBO documentary about the global response to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, the documentary makers appear to have edited out some parts of the conversation, which was then used in the clips on social media.

The written version of the interview, as published in Science magazine, reads as follows:

“Q: I want to ask you about your own vaccination. What was the date you got your first shot?

A: May 12.

Q: You're the head of WHO. You could have said in December 2020, "I'm ready." Why did you wait?

A: I feel like I know where I belong: in a poor country called Ethiopia, in a poor continent, Africa. With the privileges I have here, maybe I had a chance to have it first. I don't want to use that, because I want to be reminded every day that vaccination should start in Africa. I wanted to wait until Africa and other countries in other regions, low-income countries, started vaccination.

I have a background as a health worker and I'm in one of the risk groups. They were beginning to vaccinate health workers and risk groups [in Africa] around that time, so I thought that was my turn. I was checking my turn, actually, compared to what I would have in Africa, not in Geneva. I was protesting.”

In the HBO documentary, Dr Tedros’s response to the first question, as well as the interviewer’s second question, have been edited out so it sounds like he is asked when he was vaccinated and answers that he is still waiting. This clip is the source of the false claims being shared on social media.

The interviewer in the clip, Jon Cohen, has rejected claims that Dr Tedros said that he wasn’t vaccinated, and described it as “a lie”.

Image courtesy of World Health Organisation

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