'MISLEADING' - Pfizer's CEO rapped by watchdog over comments on children's vaccines

Albert Bourla has faced criticism about past comments on vaccinations for children.
Albert Bourla has faced criticism about past comments on vaccinations for children.
Ben Chapman

By Ben Chapman

Published: 28/11/2022

- 17:57

Updated: 14/02/2023

- 10:29

Pfizer's CEO had stated that some kids "will have severe symptoms" from Covid

“Misleading” statements on children’s vaccines have landed Pfizer’s CEO with a rapping from the UK’s pharmaceutical watchdog.

Dr Albert Bourla said in an interview with the BBC last December that “there is no doubt in my mind that the benefits, completely, are in favour of ”vaccinating youngsters aged five to 11 against Covid-19.

He said that “Covid in schools is thriving”, arguing: “This is disturbing, significantly, the educational system, and there are kids that will have severe symptoms.”

Before the vaccine received approval by Britain’s medical regulator for this age group, the interview was published, on December 2.

A complaint was submitted to the Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority (PMCPA) by UsForThem, a campaign group set up to highlight the issue of children declining during the pandemic, The Telegraph revealed.

Dr Bourla’s remarks are alleged to be “disgracefully misleading” and “extremely promotional”, with complaints that it breached several clauses of the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry’s (ABPI) code of practice.

“There is simply no evidence that healthy schoolchildren in the UK are at significant risk from the SARS COV-2 virus and to imply that they are is disgracefully misleading,” they said.

Ministers recommended vaccines for children in an attempt to keep schools open.
Ministers recommended vaccines for children in an attempt to keep schools open.
Liam McBurney

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advised against a mass rollout for children aged 12-15 in September 2021, citing any potential benefit being “considered too small”.

Despite this, ministers argued that schools would be assisted in their attempts to be kept open as a result of rolling out a single dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech jab.

The JCVI ruled that children aged 5-11 could be offered the vaccine in February 2022, with ministers saying the decision should be left up to children.

The PMCPA convened a code of practice panel, which found that Pfizer had breached the code in a number of different ways, such as misleading the public, making unsubstantiated claims and not presenting information in a factual and balanced manner.

Pfizer appealed against the findings, hitting out at UsForThem’s claims, saying Dr Bourla’s statement was based on “up-to-date scientific evidence”.

A spokesman for Pfizer said they are “committed to the highest levels of integrity in any interaction with the public”.

They added: “We are pleased the UK’s PMCPA Appeal Board found Pfizer to have maintained high standards and upheld confidence in our industry, the two most serious rulings in this complaint from a UK campaign group.

“In the UK, we have always endeavoured to follow the principles and letter of our industry Code of Practice throughout. We will review the case report in detail when we receive it, to inform future activity.

“Throughout the pandemic, our communications have been focused on providing clarity regarding the progress of our science and supporting transparent scientific exchange in the interests of public health.” UsForThem were approached for comment.

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