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In a shocking admission, a Pfizer executive on Monday stated that the company did not know if the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine it developed with BioNTech would prevent viral transmission before bringing it to market last year.
Janine Small, the president of international development markets for Pfizer, testified before the European Parliament’s COVID-19 committee Monday on behalf of Pfizer CEO Dr. Albert Bourla, who was summoned by the committee but pulled out of his appointment.
During questions, Dutch Member of Parliament Rob Roos, a conservative and opponent of Europe’s COVID-19 passports, asked Small whether Pfizer could provide lawmakers with evidence it believed the vaccine would prevent coronavirus transmission before bringing it to market.
“Was the Pfizer COVID vaccine tested on stopping the transmission of the virus before it entered the market?” Roos asked. “If not, please say it clearly. If yes, are you willing to share the data with this committee?”
In response, Small said Pfizer did not know that the vaccine would prevent transmission before bringing it to market.
“Regarding the question around, did we know about stopping immunization before it entered the market? No,” she admitted.
“These, um, you know, we had to really move at the speed of science to really understand what is taking place in the market. And from that point of view, we had to do everything at risk,” Small said.
Following guidance from public health authorities, many governments in Europe and around the world implemented policies requiring people to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination in order to fully participate in public life. These “COVID passports” were issued on the premise that the vaccinated were protected from illness so that they could socialize with other people without risk of spreading the disease.
Roos, who along with a handful of other members of European Parliament objected to vaccination requirements, said in a video Tuesday that the justification for COVID passports “was always a lie.”
“If you don’t get vaccinated, you’re anti-social! This is what the Dutch prime minister and health minister told us. You don’t get vaccinated just for yourself, but also for others — you do it for all of society. That’s what they said,” Roos recounted. “Today, this turns out to be complete nonsense.”
Roos said Small’s admission that the vaccine was not tested to prevent transmission “removes the entire legal basis for the COVID passport. The COVID passport that led to massive institutional discrimination as people lost access to essential parts of society.”
“I find this to be shocking, even criminal,” Roos added.
The mRNA vaccine developed by Pfizer-BioNTech was granted emergency use authorization in the United States on Dec. 11, 2020, and later granted Food and Drug Administration approval on August 23, 2021. The vaccine is marketed as Comirnaty and is used for the prevention of COVID-19 in individuals 12 years of age and older, though it is authorized for emergency use in children as young as five.
In granting an emergency use authorization to Pfizer in late 2020, the FDA wrote that there was no evidence that the vaccine prevents transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from person to person.
Public health officials, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, maintain that COVID-19 vaccination significantly lowers the risk of severe illness, hospitalization, and death for those infected with COVID-19.
“Like all vaccines, COVID-19 vaccines are not 100% effective at preventing infection. Some people who are up to date with their COVID-19 vaccinations will get COVID-19 breakthrough infection,” the CDC says. “However, staying up to date with your COVID-19 vaccinations means that you are less likely to have a breakthrough infection and, if you do get sick, you are less likely to get severely ill or die.”
Prior to the vaccine’s approval, Pfizer claimed that studies showed its vaccine was as much as 91.3% effective against COVID-19 and 100% effective in preventing infections in at least one study.
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