False: This video proves that Pfizer is conducting gain-of-function research

By: Laura Vitelli
February 9 2023

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False: This video proves that Pfizer is conducting gain-of-function research


The Verdict False

The video circulating on social media is not verifiable one way or the other.

Claim ID 6554742f


Project Veritas recently released another "undercover" video in which a man identified as Jordon Trishton Walker, alleged to be director of research and development for strategic operations and mRNA scientific planning at Pfizer, states that the pharmaceutical company is experimenting with ways to mutate the COVID-19 virus to pre-empt the need for new vaccines, in a manner similar to gain-of-function research.

This video has received significant attention from online conspiracy theorist communities as it lends itself to several conspiracy theory narratives surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and the mRNA vaccine. In the video, Walker alludes to similarities between what he claims Pfizer is doing and what is alleged to have occurred at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in the "lab-leak" theory of COVID-19's origin. Walker also appears to make statements that allude to repeatedly-debunked claims regarding the COVID-19 vaccine's impact on female fertility, saying that he "hopes we don't find out that somehow this mRNA lingers in the body."

In Fact

It is not yet verified whether or not Walker is, in fact, an executive at Pfizer. Although screenshots have circulated of LinkedIn profiles that purport to be Walker's, searches on LinkedIn do not return verifiable results, and the profiles listed under the alleged Pfizer executive's name are inconsistent in their spelling. As of yet, no known news organization has verified that the individual shown in the footage is connected to Pfizer. Reverse image searches of the individual in question lead solely back to the screencaps of the Project Veritas video. There are, in short, no verifiable sources with which Walker's identity may be confirmed.

Project Veritas is an American far-right activist organization founded in 2010. Since then, they have become known for using deceptive tactics to attempt to falsify news stories to further a political agenda. In one such incident in 2017, The Washington Post uncovered a Project Veritas campaign to plant a false story about a Senate candidate and infiltrate various media outlets in Washington and New York. Veritas also has a history of claiming to have obtained secretly recorded "undercover" videos that are then decontextualised or edited to misrepresent their content. 

A recent example of these tactics can be found in a video released by Project Veritas in 2021 of what Veritas claimed to be conversations with Pfizer employees. In the video, the purported employees state that immunity gained from exposure to the COVID-19 virus provides better protection than the mRNA vaccine. When Project Veritas published this "secretly-filmed" video, it did so with strong insinuations that these admissions indicate that Pfizer is "covering up" facts about the vaccines' safety and efficacy. However, the issue of natural immunity versus vaccination has been the subject of many studies since the vaccine's rollout. The question has yet to be settled as contradictory studies and evidence continue to be published. 

On January 27, 2023, Pfizer issued a statement that denied the allegations made in the video, stating that the company has not conducted gain-of-function or directed evolution research at any point throughout the ongoing development of the COVID-19 vaccine. In the statement, Pfizer said that as new coronavirus variants have appeared, it has researched where the original SARS-CoV-2 virus was used to "express the spike protein from new variants of concern." This research helps scientists determine whether existing vaccines are able to produce antibodies that neutralize the new variant and whether they need to update the vaccine.

Project Veritas founder James O'Keefe responded to Pfizer's statement on his Instagram profile by accusing the company of using jargon to hide an admission of gain-of-function research connected to the COVID-19 vaccines. O'Keefe appears to be referring to the sentence, "In a limited number of cases when a full virus does not contain any known gain of function mutations, such virus may be engineered to enable the assessment of antiviral activity in cells." However, this sentence did not pertain to the mRNA vaccines but referred to the testing required by U.S. and international regulatory agencies for Pfizer's oral antiviral medication, Paxlovid.

Logically reached out to Walker and Pfizer for comment but received no reply. 

The Verdict 

Project Veritas is known for dishonest reporting tactics and heavily-edited "undercover" videos that proclaim to promote known conspiracy narratives. The video circulating on social media is not verifiable one way or the other. Pfizer's statement regarding the video firmly denies any gain-of-function research pertaining to the COVID-19 vaccine. We have therefore marked the claim as false.

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Global Fact-Checks Completed

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