The CEO of Pfizer posted a photo of himself getting the second shot of the COVID-19 vaccine on March 10. But an Aug. 5 tweet from Newsmax reporter Emerald Robinson misleadingly suggested he isn’t vaccinated. She updated the tweet hours later, acknowledging the CEO’s post — but after her claim had spread, uncorrected, on other social media.
More than 165 million people in the U.S. have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Aug. 5, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That number includes Albert Bourla, the CEO of Pfizer, whose company partnered with the German company BioNTech to develop a two-dose COVID-19 vaccine. He tweeted a picture of himself getting his second shot on March 10.
Despite that photo, Emerald Robinson, a reporter for the conservative outlet Newsmax who has a history of spreading dubious claims, tweeted to her 400,000 followers on Aug. 5: “The CEO of Pfizer had to cancel a planned trip to Israel because he was not fully vaccinated. Let me repeat: BECAUSE HE WAS NOT VACCINATED.”
Robinson included a link to an article with a headline similar to her tweet. But that article was published on March 7, three days before Bourla’s second shot. The article noted that Bourla had received his first shot at that point and planned to reschedule a trip to Israel, which has relied heavily on the Pfizer vaccine.
About three-and-a-half hours after her original post, Robinson added an updateacknowledging Bourla’s tweet about his second dose.
But her misleading claim had already been turned into a screenshot meme circulating on other social media sites, including Instagram and Facebook.
This isn’t the first time that Robinson has shared a misleading claim. We recently wrote about misleading claims she made on Twitter questioning the existence of the delta variant of the virus that causes COVID-19. And we wrote earlier in the pandemic about her amplification of a conspiracy theory suggesting that vaccines might include microchips.
This also isn’t the first time that Bourla has been the subject of a misleading claim about the COVID-19 vaccine. In March we wrote about a similar claim alleging that he “refuses” to get the vaccine. We explained then that the claim had misrepresented what Bourla had said in a December interview on CNBC — and that he had already received his first shot.
After the vaccines first became available in December, their distribution was left largely up to state governments, but for the most part they were made available to the most vulnerable populations first.
So Bourla had said in that interview that he would take the vaccine as soon as he could, but that he didn’t want to set an example for “cutting the line” to get it earlier. He described himself as “59 years old, in good health … not working on the frontline,” so he wasn’t prioritized for the shot.
Now the vaccines are available to everyone over the age of 12 in the U.S., and anyone looking for information on where to get one can go to vaccines.gov.
Editor’s note: SciCheck’s COVID-19/Vaccination Project is made possible by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The foundation has no control over our editorial decisions, and the views expressed in our articles do not necessarily reflect the views of the foundation. The goal of the project is to increase exposure to accurate information about COVID-19 and vaccines, while decreasing the impact of misinformation.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. COVID-19 Vaccinations in the United States. Accessed 6 Aug 2021.
McDonald, Jessica. “A Guide to Pfizer/BioNTech’s COVID-19 Vaccine.” FactCheck.org. Updated 8 Jul 2021.
Bourla, Albert (@AlbertBourla). “Excited to receive my 2nd dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech #COVID19 vaccine. There’s nothing I want more than for my loved ones and people around the world to have the same opportunity. Although the journey is far from over, we are working tirelessly to beat the virus.” Twitter. 10 Mar 2021.
Fichera, Angelo. “Sequencing Used to Identify Delta, Other Coronavirus Variants.” FactCheck.org. 4 Aug 2021.
Hale Spencer, Saranac. “Conspiracy Theory Misinterprets Goals of Gates Foundation.” FactCheck.org. 14 Apr 2020.
Hale Spencer, Saranac. “Pfizer CEO Got Vaccinated, Contrary to Claim in Video.” FactCheck.org. 26 Mar 2021.
Feuer, Will. “Pfizer’s CEO hasn’t gotten his Covid vaccine yet, saying he doesn’t want to cut in line.” CNBC. 14 Dec 2020.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How CDC Is Making COVID-19 Vaccine Recommendations. Updated 14 May 2021.
McDonald, Jessica. “Q&A on COVID-19 Vaccines.” FactCheck.org. Updated 16 Jul. 2021.
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. COVID-19 (Coronavirus). Updated 13 May 2021.
Vaccines.gov. Find a COVID-19 vaccine near you. Accessed 6 Aug 2021.