Fact Check: No, Dr. Fauci Never Said ‘The Covid Vaccine Is Making People Worse’
In December 2021, social media users who were against COVID-19 vaccination programs took advantage of video footage that they said showed Dr. Anthony Fauci admitting or implying that COVID-19 vaccines might be making people sick.
The 26-second video clip of Fauci talking to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was widely shared on Twitter on December 13.
Fauci is a world-renowned infectious diseases expert and a medical advisor to both President Joe Biden and his predecessor President Donald Trump, and he has worked with both of them. When it was shown, it had the following caption:
On Facebook, users shared screenshots of that tweet, as shown in the montage below. Several other social media users made the same claims, claiming that the COVID-19 vaccines that will be available to hundreds of millions of people in late 2020 might actually be bad for the fight against the virus.
Those claims were false and a big misrepresentation of Fauci’s remarks, which were made in March 2020, long before any COVID-19 vaccines were approved or given out.
In reality, Fauci was explaining the importance of clinical trials in the development of such vaccines and, crucially, the role of those safety trials in identifying and preventing such counter-productive vaccines from being approved and distributed. We are giving it a score of “False.”
It’s important to know what Fauci said and didn’t say about vaccines “making people worse.”
He said the things in the video clips on March 19, 2020, during a live stream with Zuckerberg. Afterward, you can watch the whole conversation in full. The most important part starts about 22 minutes in.
Fauci was talking about the process of making, testing, and approving COVID-19 vaccines, and he was laying out the possible timeline for that process, as well as possible delays and problems.
At the time, even promising trial results were still eight months away, and it would be nearly nine months before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for use in emergencies on December 11, 2020.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg asked Dr. Anthony Fauci about safety testing at that point, which led to the following conversation.
We’re going to read it in full so that we can put Fauci’s remarks in their proper context, which is something vaccine opponents and conspiracy theorists did not do in December 2021.
This would not be the first time that a vaccine has caused harm after looking safe in early tests.
COVID-19 vaccines don’t cause harm or make people worse. He wasn’t talking about how many COVID-19 vaccines and boosters will be available in December 2021 because he was talking more than a year and a half before that.
Fauci was talking about a hypothetical situation in which a vaccine candidate for COVID-19 turns out to be harmful and ineffective during trials, even though it seemed to be safe at the start of the process.
He said, “That’s why you need to do a trial.” When he was talking about vaccines, he was not talking about vaccines that appear to be safe in tests but then turn out to be harmful and “make people worse” when they’re approved and given out. There were two different stages of testing that were being talked about by him.
It’s very important for a new vaccine to go through “clinical development,” which is a three-step process that the CDC says is very important.
Before a vaccine is approved by the government, it goes through clinical testing. If there is a big problem, the vaccine won’t be approved. In fact, that’s the very point Fauci was making.
If any of the COVID-19 vaccines now widely available in the United States, had been found to be ineffective or harmful in this way, they would not have been approved. In other words, “that’s why you need to do a test.”
Fauci’s references to the development of vaccines for the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and HIV were just historical examples of how important it is to have good clinical trials. In the 1960s, scientists tried to make a vaccine for RSV, a common respiratory illness that many young children get.
Early tests didn’t go well. Many kids didn’t get any benefit from the vaccine, or their symptoms got worse. When these symptoms got worse, two toddlers even died as a result of them.
“Step” was a major trial of an HIV vaccine candidate that was run by Merck and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (where Fauci was then and is still the director).
Nearly 3,000 volunteers took part in the study. In 2007, the study was halted because of bad early results. In 2012, a follow-up study found that in some men, the vaccine made them more likely to get HIV.
Clinical trials are used to find vaccines that don’t work or are harmful before they become widely available. When Fauci talked, he said that. RSV and HIV are two examples that show why it’s important to do multiple safety tests.
Both vaccine candidates looked safe in the early stages of testing, but their flaws came to light later on.
There is a big difference between the vaccines that didn’t work and the COVID-19 vaccines that are now available in the U.S. The COVID-19 vaccines also passed more rigorous clinical trials in order to get approved.