Pfizer CEO Calls People Who Promote COVID-19 Vaccine Misinformation "Criminals"

“The only thing that stands between the new way of life and the current way of life, frankly, is the hesitancy to get vaccinated.” - Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla. Image credit: Molly Woodward/Shutterstock.com

The CEO of Pfizer, the pharmaceutical giant behind one of the COVID-19 vaccines, has used bold words to describe people who purposefully promote misinformation about vaccines: they are “criminals” that are responsible for the death of millions. 

Speaking at an Atlantic Council event on Tuesday, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla talked about the collaboration with BioNTech to make the COVID-19 vaccine and his stance on misinformation. 

The Greek-born CEO, who has a background in veterinarian medicine, said he has sympathy with people who are skeptical of the vaccine, noting he understands why they are “mad with the people that are pressing them to get it.” However, he believes the people that are pushing this misinformation and profiting from the fallout are "criminal." 

“There is a very small part of professionals who circulate, on purpose, misinformation [about vaccines],” Borula told Frederick Kempe, president and CEO of the Atlantic Council. 

“Those people are criminals. They’re not bad people. They are criminals because they literally cost millions of lives.”

Bourla explains that “fake news” and misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine have caused a huge amount of damage. He goes on to state that “dark organizations” and even countries are behind malicious efforts to undermine trust in vaccines, ultimately looking to harm others. 

“I’m afraid it [caused] quite a lot of damage and particularly with us, we were targeted by a lot of, let’s say, dark organizations that you don’t really know [who owns them]. You suspect that there are some countries behind. We were getting a lot of briefings from CIA, from FBI, about cyberattacks that may happen to us, but also about the spread of misinformation.”

COVID-19 and the vaccines have become deeply politicized, he noted. This, he argues, is one of the main hurdles stopping life from returning to “normal.” 

“The only thing that stands between the new way of life and the current way of life, frankly, is the hesitancy to get vaccinated,” Bourla said. 

“For God’s sake, it is such a big mistake and it was such a big disservice to society to politicize something like that, to become a political statement if you want to mask or not. If you were, you’re a Democrat. If you’re not, you are a hardcore Republican. That’s ridiculous. It should not be like that, and it was a very bad service to humanity. “

Misinformation has been a prolific issue throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. One report from McGill University found that up to two-thirds of anti-vaccine content shared on Facebook and Twitter between February 1 and March 16, 2021, could be attributed to just 12 individuals, including Robert F Kennedy Jr, Joseph Mercola, and Sherri Tenpenny. Since 2020, many of the major social platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, have released new policies regarding content to combat misinformation about vaccines.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 193.2 million people in the US, or 58.2 percent of the population, have been fully vaccinated so far. The global death toll for COVID-19 passed 5 million earlier this month, though it's thought the real total is much, much more.

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