An initial verdict that found Pfizer had breached code of conduct was later overturned after the CEO’s full interview was made available.
On December 11, 2021, a group named UsForThem filed a complaint with the U.K. Prescription Medicines Code of Practice Authority (PMCPA), claiming that Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla is guilty of spreading misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines for children. This complaint followed Bourla's interview with BBC, where he talked about vaccinating children below the age of 11 and that COVID-19 was spreading in schools. A woman posted a video on Facebook, claiming Pfizer was found guilty of violating three sections of the British Pharmaceuticals Code of Practice. The complainant alleged a breach of the code as no information was provided on the side effects and how to report them. The video has more than 650 likes, 200 views, and 692 shares.
The BBC published an interview with Bourla in early December 2021 when Pfizer and Moderna were conducting COVID-19 vaccine trials for the age group five and under. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved "the Pfizer jab for five to 11-year-olds," the BBC reported. It is important to note that the BBC published only two minutes and 38 seconds of the video.
UsForThem, the parents' group, then claimed that the BBC's interview of Bourla breached several sections of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry's (ABPI) code of conduct. The group also alleged that Pfizer was guilty of a "breach of undertaking" after being found guilty of "illegitimately promoting its COVID-19 vaccine." The ABPI is a trade association for 120 companies in the U.K. who produce prescription medicine for humans.
It should be noted that the PMPCA is not a government body, and it administers ABPI's codes. Logically went through PMPCA's complaint from December 2021, where they agreed that some complaint points set by the parent group were a breach of code. The PMPCA panel held that Pfizer breached the code when Bourla said, "Immunising that age group … would be a very good idea," and that “there was no doubt in my mind that the benefits completely were in favour of doing it."
However, the panel later admitted that they did not have the whole interview to properly assess the complaint. The final review was done by the panel in December 2022, after the PMPCA viewed the original 45-minute interview. The PMPCA then overruled their previous statements and noted that "so, there is no doubt in my mind that the benefits, completely, are in favour of doing it [vaccinating children against COVID-19]." Bourla was cleared of charges of spreading misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine. However, it must be noted that the panel did hold that he had breached three clauses, namely 6.1, 6.2, and 26.2, which were about preemptively assuring people about the vaccines before they were fully trialed and in the market. The appeal board also said that Pfizer breached the code when its CEO stated that the benefits outweighed the risks when the U.K. regulatory authorities had not made any conclusions (at that time) to support that.
In June 2022, the FDA and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended COVID-19 vaccines for everyone above six months and older, and boosters for everyone five and older. Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine is deemed safe to administer for children. Johns Hopkins also states that "children aged 5–17 can receive a Pfizer-BioNTech booster." In December 2022, the U.K. Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency released a statement that authorized Pfizer/ BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines for infants and children aged six months to four years.
The initial verdict of the PMPCA was that Pfizer's CEO did breach a few codes regarding immunizing children under the age of 11 and promoting the vaccine. However, the panel overturned their verdict after they watched the full interview with Bourla. Pfizer vaccines are safe to administer to children.