Fact Check-WHO chief has been vaccinated against COVID-19, contrary to social media claims

An extract from a documentary featuring the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is circulating online. The 35-second-long clip shows an interview in which Ghebreyesus, who is Ethiopian, addressed how he waited until May 2021 to get his first COVID-19 vaccine, to align with and wait for the vaccination campaigns in Africa and other low-income countries.

The clip, however, is being shared by social media users in August 2022 to falsely claim Tedros has not been vaccinated against COVID-19.

“Tedros not jabbed? Well who’d have thought?” reads one tweet with the video that has been retweeted over 5,000 times (here).

“So Tedros hasn’t had any Vx because he’s ‘protesting’,” reads another highly-retweeted iteration (here).

Other examples are viewable on Twitter (here) (here) (here), Facebook (here) (here) (here) and Instagram (here).

A spokesman for the WHO told Reuters that allegations on Tedros not being vaccinated are false. “Dr. Tedros has communicated that he was vaccinated [against COVID-19] in May 2021,” he said.

On May 12, 2021, Tedros tweeted that he had been vaccinated against COVID-19 at a university hospital in Switzerland and posted a photo of the moment (here). In a subsequent tweet, the WHO chief said governments, manufacturers and stakeholders must commit to ensure vaccine equity for all (here).


The video circulating on social media is an authentic segment from the HBO documentary “How to survive a pandemic,” which follows the race to develop and distribute COVID-19 vaccines (here) (

The exchange took place on June 12, 2021 – a month after Tedros got his first dose – at WHO’s headquarters, hours before Tedros addressed the G7 summit, according to Jon Cohen, a staff writer for the journal Science, who conducted the interview.

A transcript of the full interview is viewable on the Science website. It shows the edit that made it into the documentary does not include Tedros’s original response to Cohen’s question about the date of his first vaccination. It also does not include Cohen’s next question, to which Tedros is seen replying in the circulating clip ( ).

The exchange, according to the transcript, which has been “edited for brevity and clarity,” Science clarifies, went as follows:

“C: I want to ask you about your own vaccination. What was the date you got your first shot?

T: May 12.

C: You’re the head of WHO. You could have said in December 2020, “I’m ready.” Why did you wait?

T: I feel like I know where I belong: in a poor country called Ethiopia, in a poor continent, Africa. With the privileges I have here, maybe I had a chance to have it first. I don’t want to use that, because I want to be reminded every day that vaccination should start in Africa. I wanted to wait until Africa and other countries in other regions, low-income countries, started vaccination.

I have a background as a health worker and I’m in one of the risk groups. They were beginning to vaccinate health workers and risk groups [in Africa] around that time, so I thought that was my turn. I was checking my turn, actually, compared to what I would have in Africa, not in Geneva. I was protesting.”

On Aug. 5, Cohen took to Twitter to debunk the claims about Tedros’ vaccination (here) (here), which he described as “lies.”

Ethiopia started its national vaccine campaign on March 2021 with the inoculation of frontline workers (here) (here).

By August 1, 2022, only 21% of Africa’s population had been fully inoculated ( ).

Reuters has reported on how low vaccination rates in Africa were due in part to richer nations having hoarded supply in 2021, when global demand was greatest, “to the chagrin of African nations desperate for international supplies” (here).


Misleading. Claims that the chief of the World Health Organization Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has not been vaccinated against COVID-19 are false, a spokesperson for the WHO told Reuters. Tedros said he had gotten his first dose on May 12, 2021. A video circulating on social media shows Ghebreyesus discussing why he waited until that date to get his vaccine: to protest against inequity of the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines in low-income countries.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts here .