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Pfizer CEO calls those spreading vaccine misinformation 'criminals'

"They have literally cost millions of lives,” Albert Bourla said in an interview with the Atlantic Council.
Image: Albert Bourla
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla at a ceremony in Thessaloniki, Greece, on Oct. 12.Giannis Papanikos / AP file

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla says people who circulate Covid-19 vaccine misinformation are "criminals"

In a wide-ranging interview Tuesday with the Atlantic Council, an international affairs think tank, Bourla slammed the “very small” number of professionals who “circulate, on purpose, misinformation so that they will mislead those that have concerns.”

“Those people are criminals. They’re not bad people — they’re criminals. Because they have literally cost millions of lives,” he said.

Bourla was comparing the vaccinated and the vaccine-hesitant, saying, "Both of them are afraid."

"Those that are getting the vaccine, they are afraid of the disease, and they believe that because people are not getting vaccinated, they are increasing the risk to them, they are increasing the exposure," Bourla said.

"Those that don’t get the vaccine, they’re afraid of the vaccine, and they are mad with the people that are pressing them to get it," he said, adding that they are "decent people, that they have a fear, and I understand it."

"Those people are criminals. They’re not bad people — they’re criminals. Because they have literally cost millions of lives."

Bourla, who was born in Greece, spoke about his background as the immigrant son of Holocaust survivors who rose to head one of the most profitable pharmaceutical corporations in the country.

Bourla spoke about the development last year of the company's Covid vaccine, recalling that former President Donald Trump would communicate with him directly about speeding up the process.

“He would reach out to me to ask about how we are doing and if there is anything he can do to help us accelerate, etc., etc. Which I told him, there is nothing,” Bourla said.

He said he told Trump, “I just need to let my people work without worrying about politics.”

“And, eventually, we did it. We brought it very early, and I know that President Trump would like to see it before the elections," he said. "It came after the elections, has nothing to do with politics. It is just, that was the speed of science."

Bourla predicted that annual Covid vaccine boosters would be necessary, but he said he saw an end to the pandemic: "I think we believe that life will go back to the way that we knew before."

Pfizer asked the Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday to authorize booster shots for everyone ages 18 and up. Bourla was set to accept the Atlantic Council’s Distinguished Business Leadership Award on Wednesday, alongside BioNTech founders and executives.

Late last month, Pfizer won emergency use authorization from the FDA for pediatric doses of its Covid vaccine for children ages 5 to 11, opening the door for 28 million more people in the U.S. to be vaccinated.

And last week, Pfizer announced that a combination treatment of an experimental drug and an old HIV antiviral drug reduced Covid-19 hospitalizations and deaths by 89 percent, according to an unpublished interim analysis.

Bourla said in a statement last week that if it is approved, the treatment could "eliminate up to nine out of ten hospitalizations."