Pfizer CEO under fire from UK watchdog over vaccine comments — report
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told the BBC last December that he had “no doubt in my mind that the benefits, completely, are in favor” of vaccinating 5- to 11-year-olds for Covid-19. Almost a year later, those comments have reportedly landed him in trouble with a UK pharma watchdog.
Children’s advocacy group UsForThem filed a complaint with the UK’s Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority (PMCPA) last year accusing Bourla of making “disgracefully misleading” statements during the BBC interview, including one that “Covid in schools is thriving.” At the time, UK regulators had not yet cleared the vaccine for the 5 to 11 age group, though the vaccine did have a positive opinion from the EMA’s human medicines committee.
On Saturday, the Telegraph reported that PMCPA upheld some of those accusations, including that Bourla violated a British pharmaceutical code of practice by misleading the public and making unsubstantiated claims.
“It took a small team of committed individuals a year to get to this point and has taken grit, perseverance and a lot of hard work,” UsForThem co-founder Molly Kingsley tweeted on Saturday.
It took a small team of committed individuals a year to get to this point and has taken grit, perseverance and a lot of hard work. No thanks to all those who cast us as the ‘misinformants’ during that time. https://t.co/4PevAQub97
— Molly Kingsley (@lensiseethrough) November 26, 2022
The case is marked as ongoing on PMCPA’s website, and the organization has yet to file a full report. Endpoints News has requested more information from PMCPA and UsForThem, and will update the story accordingly.
“Pfizer is committed to the highest levels of integrity in any interaction with the public, worldwide. Throughout the pandemic, our communications have been focused on providing clarity regarding the progress of our science and supporting transparent scientific exchange in the interests of public health,” Pfizer said in an email to Endpoints.
PMCPA reportedly overturned allegations that Pfizer encouraged irrational use of a medicine, brought discredit to the industry and failed to maintain high standards, according to the Telegraph.
“We are pleased the UK’s PMCPA Appeal Board found Pfizer to have maintained high standards and upheld confidence in our industry, the two most serious rulings in this complaint from a UK campaign group,” Pfizer said. “In the UK, we have always endeavoured to follow the principles and letter of our industry Code of Practice throughout. We will review the case report in detail when we receive it, to inform future activity.”
The news comes as Pfizer reports a 66% drop in Comirnaty sales last quarter. While that decline was expected — due in part to delivery delays, including an amendment to the EU’s supply deal that postponed doses to the fourth quarter — the company is also grappling with slow uptake of boosters, especially among kids.
In the US, vaccine coverage among 5- to 11-year-olds was 20.7% in the first month after the shots were recommended for that age group, according to recently published CDC data. As of Nov. 24, only 12.1% of the entire US population over 5 years old had received a bivalent booster.