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Fact Check-WHO chief’s stutter while speaking about booster shots triggers conspiracy

A video showing the head of World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, speaking about prioritizing vaccination efforts for poorer countries and more vulnerable populations over giving booster shots to children has been misconstrued online.

Some social media users have pointed to the clip to erroneously claim he “admitted” or “revealed” COVID-19 booster shots are being used “to kill children”.

While the scene highlighted online is authentic, users have misconstrued his message. A WHO spokesperson told Reuters the sentence was the result of a slip of the tongue.

“They are telling you people!! Please listen!,” one user wrote in a tweet with the clip ( here ), which has garnered over 224,500 views.

More examples can be found here , here , on Facebook ( here , here , here ) and TikTok ( vm.tiktok.com/ZM8wXLmuT/ , vm.tiktok.com/ZM8wXHqst/ )

A longer version of his remarks on Dec. 20 is viewable youtu.be/NHgoeIdti-A?t=51. The moment highlighted on social media can be seen around timestamp 2:34 ( youtu.be/NHgoeIdti-A?t=154 ).

Contacted by Reuters, a WHO spokesperson said Tedros “got stuck on the first syllable [of children] ‘chil’ and it came out sounding like ‘cil/kil.’ He then correctly pronounced the same syllable immediately after, with it coming out audibly as ‘cil-children’,” the spokesperson said.

“Any other interpretation of this is 100% incorrect,” the spokesperson added.

A transcript of the news conference ( here ) provides more context. He said:

“So, if it’s going to be used [vaccines], it’s better to focus on those groups who have the risk of severe disease and death, rather than, as we see, some countries are using to give boosters to children, which is not right. Then the equity issues comes in here. Instead of boosting a child in high income countries, it’s better to vaccinate the elderly in countries where the elders have not been vaccinated, even the primary vaccines.”

Tedros has previously expressed similar views on prioritizing vaccination efforts for the unvaccinated in poor countries over boosters ( here , here ).

As of the writing of this article, booster shots are available in the United States for everyone 16 and older. Those aged 16 to 17 can receive a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 booster 6 months after completing their first scheme, the CDC states ( here ).

VERDICT

Missing context. A video of Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of WHO, speaking about prioritizing vaccination efforts for poor countries and more vulnerable populations, rather than giving booster shots to children, has been misconstrued online.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here .

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