US drugmaker Pfizer, the world’s dominant Covid vaccine maker, has been accused of funding educational presentations that said its UK rival AstraZeneca was ineffective and even dangerous for some members of the population.
A Channel 4 Dispatches investigation due to be broadcast this week says it has “uncovered evidence” that Pfizer funded a number of educational presentations that were delivered to health professionals across Canada about its mRNA vaccine.
Included in these presentations were slides that listed several disadvantages of the “viral vector” technology that is the basis for the AstraZeneca vaccine, the broadcaster said.
Delivered by speakers who had received funds from Pfizer, the slides said there is a risk of “chromosomal integration and oncogenesis” with such vaccines, which suggests they might turn a healthy cell into a cancerous cell. They also claimed that the AstraZeneca vaccine cannot be used in immunocompromised people.
The claims made about the viral vector vaccine’s disadvatanges originated from a scientific paper written by a group of authors, one of whom had worked for several years in Pfizer’s vaccine division.
Channel 4 Dispatches did not say where it had found the evidence for these claims, and Pfizer denied it “sought to undermine others’ scientific endeavours” .
Professor Sir Andrew Pollard, the director of the Oxford vaccine group that developed the Astra Zeneca vaccine, dismissed the contents of the slides and warned of the dangers of spreading misinformation.
“That would that the vaccine could somehow integrate itself into the genetic material in people, which is not true,” Pollard said.
He said there was “absolutely zero evidence” that the vaccine “would or could” cause cancer, and that it had been given to millions of immunocompromised people and caused on harm.
“There is huge risks of misinformation, because anything that makes people hesitate about being vaccinated can risk their lives,” Pollard warned.
“It can undermine and impact on decisions that people make about their own health, but also create uncertainty for policymakers.”
Pfizer said it “provided funds to a third party agency” for an “education programme” but did “not provide presentation materials … and did not edit or influence the presentations”.
In the same investigation, Channel 4 also reveals an analysis by one biological engineering expert that claims the manufacturing costs of Pfizer’s vaccine stands at just 76p per shot, but it is reportedly being sold for £22 a dose to the UK government.
It’s been an extremely lucrative year for the drugmaker, which now wields considerable political influence due to its hefty contracts with governments around the world.
Pfizer forecast sales of its vaccine will hit $36bn in 2021 – double that of its closest rival Moderna. As of October, the pharma group provided 80 per cent of Covid Vaccines in the EU, and 74 per cent in the US.