Fact check: Pfizer and Moderna do call their COVID-19 shot a ‘vaccine’

Posts have been circulating on social media claiming that only governments are calling the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines “vaccines”, and that the companies themselves call them “biological agents” and an “Operating System designed to program Humans.” This claim is false: both Pfizer and Moderna refer to their COVID-19 vaccines as “vaccines”. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has reviewed safety data from clinical trials and granted emergency use authorizations for both vaccines.

FILE PHOTO: A nurse fills a syringe with a second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak continues, at Enfermera Isabel Zendal new pandemic hospital in Madrid, Spain, February 4, 2021.

“Only Governments are calling it a vaccine. They think if they call it a vaccine long enough, people will think it is. Pfizer call it a ‘Biological Agent’. They stress is (sic) is not a vaccine it is in the ‘Investigative Stage’. They do not know what its effects will be until the trials are finished. They hope to have it passed as a vaccine in 2022. This is all on their site. REG 174 and ‘The Package’. Personally I do not think that bodes well for any populace. Moderna have stated that theirs is not a vaccine, it is an ‘Operating System designed to program Humans’. They are very open about it,” read the posts (here  ,  here  ,  here) .

On the Pfizer website and in the Pfizer vaccine fact sheets, the COVID-19 vaccine is referred to as a vaccine, as seen here ,  here  and here . Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla can be heard calling it a “vaccine” in this CNBC interview here and this Sky News interview here  .

Reuters could not find any instance where the COVID-19 vaccine was called a “biological agent” on Pfizer’s website, as the social media posts claim.

Moderna also refers to its COVID-19 vaccine as a “vaccine” on its website here and here . The CEO of Moderna, Stéphane Bancel, can also be seen calling the company’s COVID-19 shot a vaccine in interviews with CNBC here  and Yahoo Finance here .

The posts claim that Moderna calls its vaccine an “operating System designed to program humans.” Reuters recently debunked false claims that the COVID-19 vaccine is an operating system designed to program humans (here) .

On its website, Moderna compares the mRNA science in its vaccine to an “operating system” (here) . however, the phrase is used in a metaphorical sense, not a literal one. It says, “Recognizing the broad potential of mRNA science, we set out to create an mRNA technology platform that functions very much like an operating system on a computer. It is designed so that it can plug and play interchangeably with different programs. In our case, the ‘program’ or ‘app’ is our mRNA drug - the unique mRNA sequence that codes for a protein.”

The social media posts also claim that the Pfizer vaccine is still in an “investigative stage” and its effects are as of yet unknown.

In the United States the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines have Emergency Use Authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration but they are not fully FDA-approved. At the time of publication in Feb. 2021 there was no fully FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine (here   ,  here  ,  here).

In the UK, the Pfizer vaccine was authorized under Regulation 174, which the social media posts mention (here). Regulation 174 says that medicinal products can be authorized by the licensing authority on a temporary basis in response to the confirmed spread of pathogenic agents that may cause harm to human beings, as laid out here  here  .

The vaccines are not, however, untested and their effects unknown, as the posts claim.

The FDA reviewed the safety and efficacy data from 37,586 participants aged 16 and over in the Pfizer vaccine trials and found that the known and potential benefits of the vaccine outweigh the known and potential risks (here  ,  here) . The FDA also analyzed safety data from 30,351 participants aged 18 and over in the Moderna vaccine trials and did not identify any specific safety concerns that would prevent them from issuing the EUA (here  ,  here) .

The posts claim that Pfizer says they hope to have the vaccine “passed as a vaccine” in 2022. In December Pfizer said it plans to file for full U.S. approval of its vaccine by April 2021 (here) . Pfizer said it will continue to collect efficacy and safety data in participants in the Phase 3 clinical trial for two years until 2022 (here) .

Dervila Keane, a spokesperson for Pfizer, reiterated to Reuters that the Pfizer vaccine has been granted temporary authorization in more than 50 countries and has demonstrated a vaccine efficacy rate of 95%. Moderna did not immediately respond to Reuters request for comment.

Reuters has recently debunked many other false claims related to COVID-19 vaccines (here  ,  here).


False. Pfizer and Moderna call their COVID-19 vaccines “vaccines”. Following the analysis of safety data from clinical trials, the FDA approved both of these vaccines for emergency use.

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