Misinformation Proliferates Surrounding Pfizer (PFE) Vaccine

Pfizer Inc. (PFE), the multinational biotechnology and pharmaceutical company, did not say that its COVID-19 vaccine is unsafe for individuals who are pregnant or breastfeeding, contrary to recent stories circulating online.

Pfizer has seen revenue skyrocket in recent quarters thanks to its popular COVID-19 vaccine. The vaccine, developed with Germany-based biotech firm BioNTech SE (BNTX), contributed more than $13 billion in revenue for Pfizer in Q1 FY 2022, more than half of the company's total quarterly revenue. But recent stories circulating online about potential new safety concerns around the vaccine could damper sales.

Key Takeaways

  • Stories circulating online that claim to show Pfizer documents describing its COVID-19 vaccine as unsafe for pregnant or breastfeeding individuals are inaccurate, per Reuters.
  • The stories have spread as uncertainty regarding the safety of vaccines remains a concern for some.
  • The FDA recently limited the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to certain individuals over concerns about a rare blood clotting condition.
  • If the FDA limits or reverses authorization for a vaccine, it can limit sales and potentially jeopardize billions of dollars in government contracts.

Photos Circulating Do Not Show Pfizer Documents

According to Reuters, photos circulating on social media purporting to show documents from Pfizer indicating safety concerns are not accurate. The photos, which claim to show Pfizer acknowledging that "COVID-19 mRNA Vaccine BNT162b2 is not recommended during pregnancy," are actually taken from 2020 documents produced by Britain's medicines regulator. Furthermore, the documents do not show that Pfizer's vaccine is unsafe but rather point to a lack of data as of publication.

Misinformation and Vaccine Use

Since launching its vaccine late in 2020, Pfizer has worked to ease user concerns about the safety of the product. Still, many stories and claims continue to proliferate, and it can be difficult for a layperson to determine the veracity of these claims.

The situation is complicated by the shifting scientific landscape, which occasionally has led to concern for authorities at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). For example, in early May, the FDA formally limited the use of the COVID-19 vaccine marketed by Pfizer competitor Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) to certain individuals based on concerns surrounding a rare blood clotting condition. Pfizer's Paxlovid, a drug used to treat COVID-19, has also made headlines recently over potential relapses among those treated.

Potential Impact for Investors

For investors, these concerns about drug safety could affect vaccine adoption rates, which could in turn dampen Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine sales. They could also reduce government orders for COVID-19 vaccines and treatments in the U.S. and abroad, with potentially significant impacts on Pfizer's business. The U.S. government has spent over $10 billion on Paxlovid doses for 20 million people. Should the concerns highlighted above continue or lead to the FDA reversing or changing its policy, these and other government contracts could be in jeopardy. Additionally, if the U.S. Congress fails to pass additional funding measures, the government may have to limit its purchase of next-generation COVID-19 vaccines, including Pfizer's, in the coming months.

Did Pfizer Say Its COVID-19 Vaccine Is Not Safe?

Reuters reports that documents circulating recently claiming to show that Pfizer indicated that its vaccine is not safe for those pregnant or breastfeeding are not accurate.

How Can Investors Determine the Accuracy of These Stories?

The FDA provides the latest information regarding its authorizations and recommendations.

What Is the Impact of These Concerns on Pfizer's Business?

More than half of Pfizer's Q1 FY 2022 revenue came from sales of its COVID-19 vaccine. Concerns about safety, whether legitimate or not, could affect these sales going forward.

Article Sources
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  1. Reuters. "Fact Check-Screenshots Do Not Show Pfizer Declaring Vaccines Unsafe."

  2. Pfizer Inc. "Pfizer Reports First-Quarter 2022 Results."

  3. Pfizer Inc. "COVID-19 Vaccination: Deepening the Public’s Trust Through Science."

  4. Newsweek. "What 'Pfizer Documents' Release Reveals."

  5. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. "Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: FDA Limits Use of Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine to Certain Individuals."

  6. AP News. "Rare Cases of COVID Returning Pose Questions for Pfizer Pill."

  7. CNBC. "U.S. Will Limit Next-Generation COVID Vaccines to High-Risk People This Fall if Congress Doesn’t Approve More Funding."

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