Fact check: Vaccine company did not say it is better to fight COVID-19 than get the vaccine

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS

Facebook users have claimed that pharmaceutical company Merck has said it is better to catch COVID-19 and recover naturally than it is to get vaccinated. This is false. It is a misrepresentation of a statement from Merck.

Multiple posts on Facebook have shared this claim in different ways, whether in written posts, memes or screenshots. One such post reads: “Vaccine manufacturer Merck scraps COVID vaccine, saying studies show it’s more effective to get the virus and recover than get the vaccine” (here). Another says: “According to Merck, they have determined it's better to just get the virus and develop antibodies than taking a vaccine. They have abandoned vaccine development in favour of alternative therapies” (here).

These posts appear to have misinterpreted a recent statement from Merck, which announced on Jan. 25 that it was dropping research on V590 and V591, its two candidate vaccines for COVID-19, to focus on therapeutics instead (here).

Citing its reasons for discontinuing development, the American pharmaceutical giant said: “This decision follows Merck’s review of findings from Phase 1 clinical studies for the vaccines. In these studies, both V590 and V591 were generally well tolerated, but the immune responses were inferior to those seen following natural infection and those reported for other SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 vaccines.” (here)

Therefore, Merck was referring to trial data showing its own vaccine candidates having an inferior result compared to a natural immune response to COVID-19. It was not advising against delivery of other COVID-19 vaccines. As it noted in its statement, other candidate vaccines have led to recipients showing a stronger immune response.


Misleading. Merck did not say it is better to catch COVID-19 than get vaccinated. The company’s statement about an inferior response compared to a natural immunity referred only to tests on its own two vaccine candidates.

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