Fact Check: Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla Did NOT 'Admit' COVID-19 Was Used As 'A Test'

Fact Check

  • by: Ed Payne
Fact Check: Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla Did NOT 'Admit' COVID-19 Was Used As 'A Test' Out Of Context

Did Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla "admit" on June 18, 2024, that COVID-19 was used as "a test"? No, that's not true. Pfizer Media Relations told Lead Stories that the "quote is taken out of context." Additionally, the head of the pharmaceutical and biotechnology company never used the word "test"; instead, Bourla said the pandemic was "like a rehearsal," preparing Pfizer for the future.

The claim appeared in a post and video (archived here) posted on Threads on June 19, 2024. The post's caption said:

BREAKING: Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla admitted yesterday that Covid was used as a test, while also saying that he believes that the best days of Pfizer are ahead.

'I truly think that the best days of Pfizer are ahead of us, because Covid was for me was like a rehearsal.'

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


(Source: Threads screenshot taken on Fri Jun 28 14:31:15 2024 UTC)

The video

The 23-second clip is not from June 2024, as the social media post suggests. It is from February 2, 2023, when Bourla addressed The Economic Club of Chicago (archived here) and then answered some questions in a session that lasted nearly 70 minutes. In the excerpt included in the social media post, the CEO said:

I truly think that the best days of Pfizer are ahead of us because COVID was, for me, like a rehearsal. Prove Generali [general rehearsals]. How you can mobilize an organization and do the impossible possible against a main disease. We are after cancer and many other things in the years to come.

Bourla's comments came in response to a question by moderator and Spelman College President Helene Gayle, asking him about what it's like in the aftermath of the pandemic, when his company is no longer in the headlines. A video (archived here) of the exchange posted on YouTube on February 3, 2023, is embedded below:

Response to claim: Pfizer

In a June 28, 2024, email to Lead Stories about the words attributed to Bourla in the social media post, Pfizer Media Relations said: "That quote is taken out of context."

As previously mentioned, it's important to note that Bourla never said, "COVID was used as a test," but instead said the pandemic was "like a rehearsal." The distinction is important because the claim in the social media post is similar to many debunked theories suggesting that world leaders or "global elites" planned the virus for control or profit, ultimately changing the intent of what the CEO said.

Read more

At the time this fact check was written, PolitiFact had reviewed the same claim.

Additional Lead Stories fact checks of claims about 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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