Pfizer hasn’t been fined $2.3 billion for fraud relating to Covid vaccines

25 May 2023
What was claimed

Pfizer has been fined $2.3 billion for healthcare fraud related to vaccines.

Our verdict

Pfizer was fined this amount in 2009, though it had nothing to do with vaccines.

A post on Instagram, liked more than 28,000 times, appears to link a press conference about pharmaceutical company Pfizer being fined $2.3 billion with the Covid-19 vaccines. 

The Instagram reel features a clip of then-US associate attorney general Thomas Perrelli  saying: “Pfizer has agreed to pay $2.3 billion, the largest healthcare fraud settlement in the history of the Department of Justice. Within that $2.3 billion is a criminal fine of $1.195 billion, which makes it the largest criminal fine in history.”

Meanwhile, the caption says: “Were the non- vaccinated "Critical Thinkers!?". The video of the press conference is also followed by a meme with the words: “Me wondering why all the new variants suddenly stopped”, further linking the clip to the Covid-19 pandemic

Together, this appears to imply that Pfizer has been ordered to pay $2.3 billion in relation to the rollout of its Covid-19 vaccine. The post itself is from 9 May 2023, but there is no information in the post about the date of the press conference, so it is possible that people could perceive the announcement as new. 

However, the statement given in the video clip is more than a decade old, and has nothing to do with Covid vaccines made by Pfizer. The company was actually fined $2.3 billion in 2009 after it was found to have illegally promoted uses of four drugs it produced. 

None of the products in question were vaccines. 

The £1.195 billion criminal fine was, at the time, the largest ever criminal fine issued in the US—though this was later superseded following other investigations

A longer clip of the press conference, published 13 years ago, is available on YouTube

False information about health topics can cause harm, and undermine important public health messages. We have previously written extensively about bad vaccine information, including the Pfizer vaccine specifically, many times

Image courtesy of Mat Napo

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