Fact Check: German Scientists Did NOT Uncover Evidence That EU Pfizer-BioNTech Batches Included Placebos

Fact Check

  • by: Ed Payne
Fact Check: German Scientists Did NOT Uncover Evidence That EU Pfizer-BioNTech Batches Included Placebos No Placebos

Did German scientists uncover evidence that Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine batches in the European Union included placebos? No, that's not true: Germany's federal institute for vaccines and biomedicines and Pfizer said all batches are tested and certified. They do not include placebos.

The claim appeared in a post (archived here) on Instagram by holistichealthandmore on January 20, 2024, under the title "German Scientists Uncover Evidence that EU Pfizer-BioNTech Batches Included Placebos." The post's caption says:

'You must take it to protect others.'
'Don't worry, it's safe and effective.'
'You will not get Covid if you take it.'
'It will lessen the severity of Covid.'
'The unvaccinated are a threat to everybody else'

This is what the post looked like on Instagram at the time of writing:


(Source: Instagram screenshot taken on Tue Jan 23 16:38:59 2024 UTC)

The social media post includes a screenshot of an article published on the Brownstone Institute website (archived here), which was published on July 1, 2023. The article begins:

German scientists have uncovered startling evidence that a substantial portion of the batches of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine deployed in the European Union may in fact have consisted of placebos - and hence were not even subjected to quality-control testing by the German agency which was in principle responsible for approving their release.


Susanne Stöcker, a press officer at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut (PEI), Germany's federal institute for vaccines and biomedicines, said in a January 23, 2024, email to Lead Stories that there is no truth to what's being said in the social media post or the article:

I'd like to say that everything is wrong with [these] claims. There have never been placebo batches, used for the vaccination campaigns. Every batch of COVID-19-Vaccines, used in Germany and the European Economic Area, has been tested.

Additionally, on August 18, 2023, the PEI issued a news release (archived here) that specifically addressed the claims in the Instagram post and the Brownstone Institute article, which were based on a Danish research letter (archived here) published March 30, 2023. According to the PEI statement, batch-specific reports of adverse events or lack thereof -- indicating a placebo, as suggested -- are considered "methodologically questionable."


In a January 23, 2024, email response to Lead Stories, a Pfizer European Union spokesperson said their "batches contained vaccine and nothing else." They continued, saying every batch is tested and certified:

Several attributes of each COVID-19 vaccine batch are independently tested by the manufacturer as well as by the assigned Official Medicines Control Laboratory. In our case, it is the Paul-Ehrlich-Institute in Germany or Sciensano in Belgium. The results from the assigned Official Medicines Control Laboratory have to comply with the product specification, which has been authorized by EMA [European Medicines Agency]. The assigned Official Medicines Control Laboratory certifies the compliance to the product specification via a batch-specific certificate. This is mandatory for the final batch release and distribution.

Pfizer added that the safety and effectiveness of its COVID vaccines have been demonstrated across hundreds of millions of individuals globally since they were first introduced in late 2020.

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Additional Lead Stories fact checks of claims about COVID vaccines can be found here.

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Lead Stories is working with the CoronaVirusFacts/DatosCoronaVirus Alliance, a coalition of more than 100 fact-checkers who are fighting misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about the alliance here.

  Ed Payne

Ed Payne is a staff writer at Lead Stories. He is an Emmy Award-winning journalist as part of CNN’s coverage of 9/11. Ed worked at CNN for nearly 24 years with the CNN Radio Network and CNN Digital. Most recently, he was a Digital Senior Producer for Gray Television’s Digital Content Center, the company’s digital news hub for 100+ TV stations. Ed also worked as a writer and editor for WebMD. In addition to his journalistic endeavors, Ed is the author of two children’s book series: “The Daily Rounds of a Hound” and “Vail’s Tales.” 

Read more about or contact Ed Payne

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