In a shocking admission, a Pfizer executive on Monday stated that the company did not know if the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine it developed with BioNTech would prevent viral transmission before bringing it to market last year.
Janine Small, the president of international development markets for Pfizer, testified before the European Parliament's COVID-19 committee Monday on behalf of Pfizer CEO Dr. Albert Bourla, who was summoned by the committee but pulled out of his appointment.
During questions, Dutch Member of Parliament Rob Roos, a conservative and opponent of Europe's COVID-19 passports, asked Small whether Pfizer could provide lawmakers with evidence it believed the vaccine would prevent coronavirus transmission before bringing it to market.
"Was the Pfizer COVID vaccine tested on stopping the transmission of the virus before it entered the market?" Roos asked. "If not, please say it clearly. If yes, are you willing to share the data with this committee?”
In response, Small said Pfizer did not know that the vaccine would prevent transmission before bringing it to market.
“Regarding the question around, did we know about stopping immunization before it entered the market? No," she admitted.
"These, um, you know, we had to really move at the speed of science to really understand what is taking place in the market. And from that point of view, we had to do everything at risk,” Small said.
Following guidance from public health authorities, many governments in Europe and around the world implemented policies requiring people to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination in order to fully participate in public life. These "COVID passports" were issued on the premise that the vaccinated were protected from illness so that they could socialize with other people without risk of spreading the disease.
Roos, who along with a handful of other members of European Parliament objected to vaccination requirements, said in a video Tuesday that the justification for COVID passports "was always a lie."
"If you don't get vaccinated, you're anti-social! This is what the Dutch prime minister and health minister told us. You don't get vaccinated just for yourself, but also for others — you do it for all of society. That's what they said," Roos recounted. "Today, this turns out to be complete nonsense."
Roos said Small's admission that the vaccine was not tested to prevent transmission "removes the entire legal basis for the COVID passport. The COVID passport that led to massive institutional discrimination as people lost access to essential parts of society."
"I find this to be shocking, even criminal," Roos added.
The mRNA vaccine developed by Pfizer-BioNTech was granted emergency use authorization in the United States on Dec. 11, 2020, and later granted Food and Drug Administration approval on August 23, 2021. The vaccine is marketed as Comirnaty and is used for the prevention of COVID-19 in individuals 12 years of age and older, though it is authorized for emergency use in children as young as five.
In granting an emergency use authorization to Pfizer in late 2020, the FDA wrote that there was no evidence that the vaccine prevents transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from person to person.
Public health officials, including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, maintain that COVID-19 vaccination significantly lowers the risk of severe illness, hospitalization, and death for those infected with COVID-19.
"Like all vaccines, COVID-19 vaccines are not 100% effective at preventing infection. Some people who are up to date with their COVID-19 vaccinations will get COVID-19 breakthrough infection," the CDC says. "However, staying up to date with your COVID-19 vaccinations means that you are less likely to have a breakthrough infection and, if you do get sick, you are less likely to get severely ill or die."
Prior to the vaccine's approval, Pfizer claimed that studies showed its vaccine was as much as 91.3% effective against COVID-19 and 100% effective in preventing infections in at least one study.
Roos said that the Pfizer executive's admission that the vaccine was never tested for preventing transmission was "scandalous."
"Millions of people worldwide felt forced to get vaccinated because of the myth that 'you do it for others.' Now this turned out to be a cheap lie. This should be exposed."
Over time, the vaccine has proved to have waning efficacy against mutating strains (Delta, Omicron, etc.) of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Health officials have advocated for people to receive COVID-19 booster shots as breakthrough infections have become more common.
Still, officials have claimed, contrary to the evidence that COVID-19 vaccination will prevent infection. President Joe Biden in July 2021 stated, "You're not going to get COVID if you have these vaccinations." About a year later, he tested positive for the virus despite being fully vaccinated and up to date with booster shots.
Outgoing White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government's go-to health spokesman during the pandemic, has also given conflicting statements on the vaccine's effectiveness. In May 2021, Fauci told CBS News that vaccinated people were a "dead end" for the virus, saying the likelihood a vaccinated person could transmit COVID was "very, very low."
"When you get vaccinated, you not only protect your own health and that of the family, but also you contribute to the community health by preventing the spread of the virus throughout the community,” Fauci said.
However, in August 2021, during the Delta wave, Fauci told Katie Couric that vaccinated people could still transmit the virus. "They’re either without symptoms or only mildly symptomatic,” he said. “So it’s less that it’s going to make the vaccinated person sick. It’s more that it’s going to allow the vaccinated person to transmit it to someone else who might get sick, like a vulnerable person in the family, an elderly individual, a child who’s unvaccinated.”
The point wasn't to prevent transmission, but rather reduce the severity of illness, Fauci explained at the time. "The vaccine is doing exactly what we wanted it to do,” he said. “It’s preventing people from getting seriously ill — that’s the reason why you get vaccinated.”