Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla has been rapped by the UK’s pharmaceutical watchdog for making “disgracefully misleading” statements about children’s covid vaccines
During an interview with the BBC last December, Bourla claimed “there is no doubt in my mind that the benefits, completely, are in favour of” vaccinating youngsters aged five to 11 against Covid-19.
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He argued that Covid was thriving in schools, saying: “This is disturbing, significantly, the educational system, and there are kids that will have severe symptoms.”
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The Telegraph reports: The interview was published on Dec 2 – before the vaccine had been approved by Britain’s medical regulator for this age group.
Shortly after the article’s publication, a complaint was submitted to the pharmaceutical watchdog – the Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority (PMCPA) – by UsForThem, a parent campaign group which was set up to promote the plight of children during the pandemic.
‘Extremely promotional in nature’
The complaint alleged that Dr Bourla’s remarks about the children’s vaccine were “disgracefully misleading” and “extremely promotional in nature”, arguing that it breached several clauses of the Association of the 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.
In September 2021, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), had advised against a mass roll-out for children aged 12-15, saying the “margin of benefit” was “considered too small” and citing the low risk to healthy children from the virus.
But less than a fortnight later, ministers gave the green light for youngsters to be given a single dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech jab with the UK’s chief medical officers arguing that this would help to keep schools open.
It was not until February 2022 that the JCVI ruled that children aged 5-11 could be offered the vaccine – but ministers said the decision should be left up to parents.
A code of practice panel, convened by the PMCPA, found that Pfizer had breached the code in a number of different ways, including by misleading the public, making unsubstantiated claims, and by failing to present information in a factual and balanced way.
Up-to-date scientific evidence’
Pfizer appealed against the findings, strongly refuting UsForThem’s claims that Dr Bourla had breached the code of practice. They argued that his remarks were based on “up-to-date scientific evidence” and could be substantiated by the “publicly available independent benefit-risk assessments”.
Earlier in November an appeal board met to consider their arguments. The breaches of the code relating to misleading the public, making unsubstantiated claims and the lack of balance were upheld.
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