Pfizer’s CEO has been criticized by the regulator for making “misleading” statements about vaccines for children

Pfizer CEO Dr. Albert Bourla said Covid in schools is thriving and ‘there are children who will have severe symptoms’ – Steven Ferdman/Getty Images

Pfizer’s CEO has been criticized by the UK’s pharmaceutical watchdog for making “misleading” claims about vaccines for children, The Telegraph can reveal.

Dr Albert Bourla used a BBC interview last December to say that “I have no doubt that the benefits, completely, are in favor” of vaccinating young people aged five to 11 against Covid-19.

He argued that “Covid in schools is thriving” adding, “This is disturbing, significantly, the education system, and there are children who will have severe symptoms.”

The interview was published on December 2, before the vaccine was approved by the British medical regulator for this age group.

Shortly after the article was published, UsForThem, a parent campaign group set up to promote the plight of children during the pandemic, filed a complaint with the pharmaceutical regulator – the Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority (PMCPA).

“Extremely promotional in nature”

The complaint alleged that Dr Bourla’s remarks about the vaccine for children were “shamefully misleading” and “extremely promotional in nature”, claiming it breached several clauses of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry’s (ABPI) code of practice.

“There is simply no evidence that healthy schoolchildren in the UK are at significant risk from the SARS COV-2 virus and to imply that they are is embarrassingly misleading,” they said.

In September 2021, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI) had advised against a mass rollout for children aged 12-15, saying the “margin of benefit” was “considered too small” and citing the low health risk to children from the virus.

But less than two weeks later, ministers gave the green light for young people to receive a single dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine with the UK’s top medical officers, arguing it would help keep schools open.

It was not until February 2022 that the JCVI ruled that children aged 5-11 could be offered the vaccine, but ministers said the decision should be left to parents.

A code of conduct panel, convened by the PMCPA, found that Pfizer had violated the code in several ways, including misleading the public, making unsubstantiated claims, and failing to present information in a factual and balanced manner.

“Updated Scientific Evidence”

Pfizer appealed the findings, forcefully refuting UsForThem’s claims that Dr. Bourla had violated the code of conduct. They argued that his observations were based on “up-to-date scientific evidence” and could be supported by “publicly available independent benefit-risk assessments.”

In early November, an appeals committee met to consider their arguments. Code violations related to deception, unsubstantiated claiming, and imbalance were upheld.

But more serious findings — including that Pfizer had brought industry into disrepute, encouraged the irrational use of a drug, and failed to maintain high standards — were overturned. PMCPA said the full report on the case will be released in the coming weeks.

A Pfizer spokesperson said they are “committed to the highest levels of integrity in any interaction with the public.”

They added: “We are delighted that the UK PMCPA Appeals Panel has found that Pfizer has maintained high standards and maintained trust in our industry, the two most serious findings in this complaint by a UK constituency group. .

“In the UK, we have always tried to follow the principles and letter of our industry code of conduct. We will review the case report in detail when we receive it, to inform future activities.

“During the pandemic, our communications have focused on providing clarity about the progress of our science and supporting transparent scientific exchange in the interest of public health.” UsForThem has been contacted for comment.

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