Fact check: Bill Gates, Pfizer CEO both plan to take COVID-19 vaccine
The claim: Neither Bill Gates nor Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla will take the COVID-19 vaccine
Now that two COVID-19 vaccines are authorized for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration, Americans are starting to get vaccinated. Prominent individuals such as President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President Mike Pence received their vaccines on camera, and so have health care workers battling the pandemic.
Despite that, some fear the vaccine isn't safe, supposedly because the people behind the vaccine haven't taken it.
"Bill Gates said he will not get vaccinated nor his children," a post on Facebook reads. "The CEO of Pzifer (sic) is 'holding off' in receiving the COVID vaccine. Get the picture yet? Wake up church!"
The post's creator did not respond to USA TODAY's request for comment.
Fact check: What's true and what's false about the COVID-19 vaccine
Gates, Pfizer CEO won't forgo vaccine
Bridgitt Arnold, a Gates family spokesperson, told USA TODAY that Gates, his wife, Melinda, and their family plan to be vaccinated against COVID-19 "when it is their turn to do so." Gates made a similar statement in an interview with Savannah Guthrie on NBC's "Today," when she asked whether he would personally take the first vaccine offered to him.
"Whatever my place in line rightly is, I will immediately step up and take the vaccine," he told Guthrie.
The idea that Gates and his family generally refuse to be vaccinated, despite their longtime financial support of vaccine research has been debunked by a number of news organizations, including Reuters and The Associated Press. Melinda Gates denied the allegations in a Facebook post.
“All three of my children are fully vaccinated,” she wrote in April 2019. “Vaccines work. And when fewer people decide to get them, we all become more vulnerable to disease.”
Gates Foundation adds $250M gift to fight COVID-19 worldwide: Melinda Gates explains why
The Gateses are staunch advocates of vaccination and pledged $250 million toward research, development and delivery of COVID-19 vaccines, diagnostics and therapies, particularly to low-income countries. Bill Gates criticized the federal government's handling of the virus and its subsequent vaccination plan.
“The federal government has way more resources than the states,” Gates said Dec. 3 in an interview with "Today." “Punting this to the states means we won’t be perfect, but it will get done.”
Albert Bourla, Pfizer's CEO, plans to take the vaccine – just not yet. Amy Rose, a spokesperson for Pfizer, told USA TODAY the focus for the initial doses is on priority groups defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"Dr. Bourla is looking forward to being vaccinated, and he will be at the earliest possible time," she said.
Bourla told CNBC on Dec. 14 that he and other Pfizer executives will not "cut the line" to receive the company's COVID-19 vaccine, pointing to the fact that he's 59 years old and in good health.
"As soon as I can, I will," he told CNBC.
Our ruling: False
We rate the claim that Bill Gates and Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla won't take the COVID-19 vaccine as FALSE because it was not supported by our research. Gates said in an interview on NBC's "Today" he would take the vaccine, and a family spokesperson confirmed that to USA TODAY. The Gates family members are staunch supporters of vaccination. Bourla told CNBC he plans to take the vaccine as soon as possible, which a spokesperson for Pfizer confirmed to USA TODAY.
Our fact check sources:
- USA TODAY, Dec. 21, President-elect Joe Biden receives first dose of COVID-19 vaccine
- USA TODAY, Dec. 18, 'I didn't feel a thing': Vice President Mike Pence gets COVID-19 vaccine on camera
- USA TODAY, Dec. 14, A 'magical' moment: First COVID-19 vaccinations raise hopes on historic day marked by another grim milestone
- Reuters, April 29, False claim: Bill Gates refused to vaccinate his children
- Associated Press, May 6, Bill Gates did not refuse to vaccinate his children
- Melinda Gates' Facebook, April 18, 2019, post
- NBC's "Today," Dec. 3, Bill Gates: ‘It looks like almost all the vaccines are going to succeed’
- Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, VACCINE DEVELOPMENT AND SURVEILLANCE
- USA TODAY, Dec. 10, The Gates Foundation adds $250M gift to fight COVID-19 worldwide: Melinda Gates explains why
- Email correspondence with Amy Rose, a Pfizer spokesperson
- CNBC, Dec. 14, Pfizer’s CEO hasn’t gotten his Covid vaccine yet, saying he doesn’t want to cut in line
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Our fact check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.