What the Pfizer vaccine approval could mean for COVID-19 numbers
ExperCARE founder/CEO Catherine C. Grant talks about the recent FDA approval of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine and what that could mean for vaccinations.
Savannah Morning News
The claim: Pfizer is developing a pill that must be taken ‘alongside vaccines’
After Pfizer announced it was working on a pill to treat COVID-19 in non-hospitalized adults, misleading claims about how the oral medication would work surfaced online.
Some social media users are suggesting those who are already vaccinated against the virus will be required to take a pill created by Pfizer twice a day in order for the vaccine to be effective.
“Pfizer is Now Developing A Twice-Per-Day COVID Pill That Must Be Taken Alongside Vaccines,” reads the headline of a Sept. 1 article from the National File, which was shared as a screenshot to Instagram the next day.
The Instagram user captioned the post, “They’ll tell you nothing else works while cashing in on being the only solution. Smh.”
Similar versions of the claim appeared across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
“As many of us have said, this will be endless. Pills, jabs, poking, prodding, testing, 2 pills to supplement the jab that doesn’t work and the boosters,” one user tweeted on Sept. 2 along with the National File article.
While it’s true Pfizer is developing a twice-per-day pill to treat COVID-19, the medication is unrelated to vaccinations. It’s for treating people after infection.
Fact check: No strong evidence alpha-lipoic acid helps COVID-19 loss of smell, taste
Gabriel Keane, managing editor of the National File, told USA TODAY via email that the headline was updated after a USA TODAY inquiry to include a direct quote from Pfizer’s CEO. But the updated headline misrepresents the CEO’s words while still failing to correct the false claim that the pill is to be taken “alongside vaccines.”
The social media users who shared the post did not return a request for comment.
Pill is for those with COVID-19
Confusion started online after Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla tweeted on Sept. 1 that tackling the pandemic would likely involve both treatment and vaccines.
However, the daily oral drug for COVID-19 is a treatment for people who already have the virus – not a preventative measure like the vaccine. The drug, currently in the second phase of trials, is designed for non-hospitalized adults who are at low risk of severe illness.
“This does not have to do with vaccinated adults,” Pfizer spokeswoman Jerica Pitts said via email. “It is for those who are diagnosed with COVID-19 to treat symptoms – it is still being studied and not approved.”
Success against #COVID19 will likely require both vaccines & treatments. We’re pleased to share we’ve started a Phase 2/3 study of our oral antiviral candidate—specifically designed to combat SARS-CoV-2—in non-hospitalized, low-risk adults: https://t.co/su5VtfbWPX
— AlbertBourla (@AlbertBourla) September 1, 2021
On Sept. 1, Pfizer announced the first participant in the clinical trial received a dose of the oral drug, which is “designed specifically to combat COVID-19 – in non-hospitalized, symptomatic adult participants who have a confirmed diagnosis of SARS- CoV-2 infection and are not at increased risk of progressing to severe illness, which may lead to hospitalization or death.”
There will be 1,140 participants in the clinical trial.
According to Pfizer, if successful, the drug “has the potential to address a significant unmet medical need, providing patients with a novel oral therapy that could be prescribed at the first sign of infection, without requiring hospitalization.”
Mikael Dolsten, Pfizer’s chief scientific officer, said phase 1 of the study showed powerful antiviral activity, and the drug could be effective against “all currently known COVID-19 variants.”
Fact check: FDA-approved blood thinner for children isn’t related to Pfizer vaccine
In July, the company also started a study of a twice-daily oral treatment for non-hospitalized adults at higher risk of severe COVID-19 due to underlying conditions.
Our rating: False
Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that Pfizer is developing a pill that must be taken twice a day ‘alongside vaccines.’ The vaccines are a preventative treatment taken before infection, while the pills are for people after a COVID-19 diagnosis. The pills are not a booster or compliment to the vaccine and aren’t connected with its effectiveness. The drug, currently going through trials, is used to treat non-hospitalized adults with COVID-19.
Our fact-check sources:
- Albert Bourla, Sept. 1, Tweet
- Jerica Pitts, Sept. 2, Email exchange with USA TODAY
- Pfizer, Sept. 1, First Participant Dosed in Phase 2/3 Study of Oral Antiviral Candidate in Non-Hospitalized Adults with COVID-19 Who Are at Low Risk of Severe Illness
- The Motley Fool, Aug. 3, This Could Be Pfizer’s Next COVID Blockbuster — and It Isn’t a Vaccine
- U.S. National Library of Medicine, July 13, A study of PF-07321332/Ritonavir in Nonhospitalized High Risk Adult Participants With COVID-19
- Reuters, Sept. 1, Pfizer, Merck launch new trials of COVID-19 drugs
Thank you for supporting our journalism. You can subscribe to our print edition, ad-free app, or electronic newspaper replica here.
Our fact-check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.