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Posts cite old interview to falsely claim BioNTech CEO isn’t vaccinated

December 6, 2021 GMT

CLAIM: Video shows that the CEO of BioNTech, Dr. Ugur Sahin, will not take the COVID-19 vaccine that his firm developed with Pfizer.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. Social media posts are misrepresenting an interview that Sahin gave in December 2020. He received the vaccine the next month, a company spokesperson confirmed.

THE FACTS: A year-old interview with the CEO of BioNTech, the German biotechnology firm that developed a COVID-19 vaccine with Pfizer, is being misrepresented online to erroneously claim that he won’t receive the vaccine.

“Dr Ugur Sahin CEO of BioNTech and inventor of the BIO N TECH Pfizer jab refuses to take the jab for safety reasons,” one widely shared Sunday tweet reads. “WAKE UP!”

The tweet and similar posts cite an interview of Sahin with the outlet Deutsche Welle, in which Sahin said that he was not yet vaccinated against COVID-19.

But that clip comes from an interview from December 2020, as the vaccine rollout began.

Answering a question about why he was not yet vaccinated, Sahin said that he was “legally not allowed to take the vaccine at the moment” and later explained that he was not in a priority group at that time to receive the vaccine.

Sahin also said it was “more important for us that our coworkers and partners get vaccinated. Our goal is to produce more than 1.3 billion doses in 2021, and that can only be done if we can really continue to work 24/7, without any interruption, and we need to ensure that we protect the coworkers and our team members from COVID-19 infection because that would mean interruption and delay.”

A BioNTech spokesperson told The Associated Press that the claims about Sahin’s vaccination status were “wrong” and that he received his first two doses in early 2021.

The spokesperson pointed to an interview that Sahin did with The Times of London in September, in which the CEO said he and his wife — Özlem Türeci, BioNTech’s chief medical officer — “got our shots at the end of January this year.” He said he initially had ethical concerns about getting the vaccine before his age group was eligible.

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This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.