Fact check: Outdated interview used to make false claim about BioNTech CEO’s vaccination status

·4 min read

The claim: The CEO of BioNTech has not been vaccinated against COVID-19

Since the early stages of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in the U.S., vaccine skeptics have used outdated interviews to spread claims that executives are refusing shots developed by their own pharmaceutical companies.

The latest iteration of this misinformation targets Ugur Sahin, CEO of BioNTech, a German biotechnology company that collaborated with Pfizer to develop COVID-19 vaccines and booster shots. Social media users claim a video shows him admitting he will not get injected.

"Dr Ugur Sahin CEO of #BioNTech and inventor of the BioNTech/#Pfizer jab refuses to take the jab for safety reasons," reads the caption of a Dec. 5 Facebook video that accumulated more than 100 views.

The approximately two-minute clip, which recently made its way to Facebook, Twitter and other websites, shows Sahin answering questions from a reporter about his COVID-19 vaccination status, saying he is not legally allowed to get a shot.

But the video is from December 2020, before the vaccine rollout started in Germany. Sahin has since been vaccinated against the virus, according to a company spokesperson.

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The social media users who shared the video did not return requests for comment.

Interview is outdated

BioNTech spokeswoman Jasmina Alatovic told USA TODAY via email that the claim is "wrong" and that Sahin got his first and second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the beginning of 2021. She said he has also received a booster shot.

The footage of Sahin included in the posts dates to Dec. 22, 2020, and was originally uploaded to YouTube by DW News, a German news site. At the time, Sahin was not eligible to get vaccinated since the first shot wasn't administered in Germany until Dec. 26, 2020.

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine received authorization from the European Union on Dec. 21, 2020, a day before the interview took place. The vaccine rollout in Germany initially lagged due to scarce supply and a lack of health care workers, per Reuters.

In the full interview, Sahin emphasized that it was more important his coworkers and partners get vaccinated because the company could only meet its vaccine production goals if there were no interruptions or delays, such as employees contracting COVID-19.

Alatovic pointed to a September interview that Sahin and his wife did with the Times of London, in which he said they both were vaccinated in January and did not experience any side effects.

"We had no side-effects. Our vaccine’s safety profile is similar to the others. So it is a perfectly fine vaccine,'' Sahin told the Times

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Social media users have previously shared an outdated interview to make a similar claim about Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla, who has also been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Our rating: False

Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that the CEO of BioNTech has not been vaccinated against COVID-19. The interview used to make the claim was from December 2020, and Sahin was not eligible to get vaccinated at the time. A company spokesperson said he has since received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine as well as a booster shot.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: BioNTech CEO has been vaccinated against COVID-19

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