False: The effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines was exaggerated to boost pharma profits.

By: Sanyukta Dharmadhikari
December 13 2022

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False: The effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines was exaggerated to boost pharma profits.


The Verdict False

News articles and studies on COVID-19 have been edited misleadingly, out of chronological order, to suggest that COVID-19 vaccines are ineffective.

Claim ID bdc1bd0a


A video showing multiple screenshots of article headlines and studies about the COVID-19 vaccine and subsequent booster vaccines has been shared across Facebook and has gained 4 million views on Twitter. While the video does not explicitly make any claim, the screenshots have been edited, implying a narrative that the public has been misled by public officials in regard to the efficacy of the vaccine to boost pharma profits. However, the video has been edited to mislead people about the COVID-19 vaccine.

In Fact

The video was first shared on Twitter on November 30, 2022, with the caption "How it started vs how it's going." The video contains screenshots of various news articles and studies published from early 2020 — when knowledge about the coronavirus was limited — to late 2021, when a COVID-19 vaccine had been rolled out, and booster shots were being recommended to protect people against more transmissible variants that were emerging. 

The video implies that claims made about the vaccine's efficacy are unreliable. It begins with news articles declaring that the vaccine efficacy is high, but as the video progresses, the vaccine efficacies mentioned in the headlines reduce. The video also has a clip of Anthony Fauci, scientist and chief medical advisor to the U.S. president, stating that the vaccine is effective. There are also screenshots of articles saying that some countries have halted vaccine use. The last few screenshots in the video are headlines about pharmaceutical companies posting profits because of the COVID-19 vaccine.

This was cross-posted on Facebook on December 1, with the caption "Scientists, doctors, the media, and politicians told the public to convince them to get the shot 1, 2, 3, 4, and even 5 times," and "these were all just made-up claims to manipulate you." 

Speaking to Logically, Indian virologist Jacob John, a former professor at the Christian Medical College in Tamil Nadu's Vellore, dismissed the claim that vaccines were thrust upon people to boost the profits of pharmaceutical companies. He explained that many vaccines, like those for polio and chicken pox, provide lifelong protection; "But in the case of some vaccines, like tetanus and influenza vaccine, vaccine efficacy does reduce over time, and therefore, multiple doses may be needed. However, as more people get vaccinated, the need for the vaccine also goes down. Booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccine were recommended to provide additional protection against new variants of the coronavirus." If there aren't any highly transmissible variants, the existing dosage of the vaccine will be enough.

Vaccines help prevent severe disease, hospitalization, and death. However, some virus variants may impact the ability of a vaccine to guard against mild disease and infection. Therefore, multiple doses of a vaccine may be required to counter stronger variants that exploit a decreased immune response seen after one vaccination.

However, studies have also shown that while vaccine efficacy may decrease, vaccines are effective in preventing hospitalization and death. 

The World Health Organization explains the vaccine efficacy and vaccine efficiency as follows; the efficacy of a vaccine is measured via clinical trials. It is defined as the measure of how much the vaccine lowers the risk of getting sick. Vaccine effectiveness measures how well vaccines work in the real world. Results from clinical trials are the product of a controlled environment. Real-world results can differ from those of clinical trials because trials usually contain a specific group of people, whereas the population is variable. Multiple factors, such as age, family history, comorbidities, environment, and personal habits, may not always be factored in a trial.

WHO has also established that though people may get infected with a new variant of the coronavirus, a booster dose will ensure that the disease is less severe. All COVID-19 vaccines approved for emergency use listed by WHO were thoroughly tested and are proven to provide a high degree of protection against severe illness and death. 

The Verdict 

Vaccines are an essential tool to safeguard people from falling sick. They protect against severe disease and death. The video of credible news articles and studies conducted on COVID-19, even as it evolved over the past two years, has been edited to mislead people that conflicting claims were made about the vaccine's efficacy and safety. As a result, we have marked this claim as misleading.

The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to a lot of potentially dangerous misinformation. For reliable advice on COVID-19, including symptoms, prevention, and available treatment, please refer to the World Health Organization or your national healthcare authority.

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We rely on information to make meaningful decisions that affect our lives, but the nature of the internet means that misinformation reaches more people faster than ever before