Claims circulating on social media that Pfizer CEO Dr Albert Bourla is “stepping down” after admitting mRNA vaccines are “not safe” are inaccurate.
One post shared to Facebook claims: “Pfizer CEO Albert Burla [sic] is stepping down and now says the mRNA technology was not sufficiently proven when they launched … He says they convinced him, but he wasn't sure. He admits it's not safe.”
A Pfizer spokesperson confirmed to Full Fact that Dr Bourla has not resigned and that any claim to the contrary is “completely unfounded".
The post also shares a video of Dr Bourla talking about how he was convinced of the potential of mRNA vaccine technology to be used to produce a Covid-19 vaccine. Other posts making the same claim have featured screenshots from the same video.
The video in question is a clip from an interview Dr Bourla gave to Washington Post Live, which was posted on YouTube on 10 March 2022.
In the clip Dr Bourla says: “I was surprised when they suggested to me that this is the way to go, and I questioned it. And I asked them to justify how can you say something like that, but they came, and they were very, very convinced that this is the right way to go.
“They felt that the two years of work on mRNA since 2018 together with BioNTech to develop a flu vaccine made them believe that the technology is mature and we are at the cusp of delivering a product. So they convinced me. I followed my instinct that they know what they are saying.”
While mRNA vaccine technologies have been trialled and developed for many years, Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine became the first mRNA vaccine to be approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.
A full transcript of the interview was published by the Washington Post, which shows that at no point during the interview did Dr Bourla say that the mRNA vaccine was “not safe” or “not sufficiently proven” when it launched.
A Pfizer spokesperson said: “Regulatory agencies across the world have authorised the use of our Covid-19 vaccine. These authorisations are based on robust and independent evaluation of the scientific data on quality, safety and efficacy, including our landmark phase 3 clinical trial.
“Data from real world studies complement the clinical trial data and provide additional evidence that the vaccine provides effective protection against severe disease.”
We’ve previously written about false claims made about Dr Bourla, including that he hadn’t been vaccinated, and had been arrested for vaccine data fraud, as part of our work fact checking online misinformation.
Image courtesy of János Korom