FACT CHECK: MSNBC’s Joy Reid Claims Moderna And Pfizer ‘Were Not Involved In Operation Warp Speed’

Elias Atienza | Fact Check Reporter

During a Nov. 17 segment, MSNBC’s Joy Reid claimed the pharmaceutical companies Moderna and Pfizer “were not involved in Operation Warp Speed.”

Verdict: False

Moderna and Pfizer are both involved to some extent in Operation Warp Speed, according to spokespeople from the respective companies. Moderna received funding through Operation Warp Speed to help develop and test the vaccine the company jointly developed with scientists from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, while Pfizer participates as a supplier of a potential COVID-19 vaccine.

Fact Check:

Reid, the MSNBC host of the show “The ReidOut,” made the claim after Pfizer and Moderna respectively announced this month that they had developed COVID-19 vaccines. Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech said in a Nov. 18 press release that its vaccine is 95 percent effective, while Moderna has said its vaccine is nearly 95 percent effective, according to The Washington Post.

In the segment, Reid said, “I just want to fact check real quick and remind you all that the companies themselves that are producing these vaccines were not involved in Operation Warp Speed, and have said as much, so that’s a lie.” The statement came after she played a montage of Republican senators appearing to give credit to the Trump administration and Operation Warp Speed for the pharmaceutical companies’ developments.

Her statement, however, is inaccurate and lacks important context. Moderna and Pfizer have both participated to some degree in Operation Warp Speed, the federal government’s initiative to quickly develop and bring to market a safe COVID-19 vaccine. (RELATED: Fact-Checking Rachel Maddow’s Math On Potential COVID-19 Herd Immunity Deaths)

Moderna received nearly $1 billion from the federal government through Operation Warp Speed to help develop and test its COVID-19 vaccine, The New York Times reported. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) also announced in August up to about $1.5 billion to “support the large-scale manufacturing and delivery” of Moderna’s vaccine, according to an HHS fact sheet on Operation Warp Speed.

In an Aug. 11 press release, HHS explained that Moderna’s vaccine “has been co-developed by Moderna and scientists from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)” and that the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority “supported phase 2/3 clinical trials, vaccine manufacturing scale up and other development activities for this vaccine.” A spokesperson for Moderna confirmed in an email to Check Your Fact that the pharmaceutical company is “part of Operation Warp Speed.”

Pfizer, unlike Moderna, did not take money from the federal government for the development and testing of its vaccine, according to CNN. However, the company is part of Operation Warp Speed as a “supplier of a potential COVID-19 vaccine,” according to a company statement provided to Check Your Fact by spokesperson Sharon Castillo. In July, it reached a $1.95 billion agreement with the U.S. government through Operation Warp Speed to deliver 100 million doses of its vaccine, if approved by Food and Drug Administration, according to a Pfizer press release and The New York Times.

“Pfizer is proud to be one of various vaccine manufacturers participating in Operation Warp Speed as a supplier of a potential COVID-19 vaccine,” the company statement provided to Check Your Fact says. “Pfizer has self-funded all of its COVID-19 vaccine development and manufacturing costs. Under its agreement with the U.S. government, Pfizer will only receive payment for successful delivery of vaccine doses, following regulatory authorization or approval.”

Reid’s claim may have stemmed from Pfizer seeming to previously attempt to distance itself from Operation Warp Speed. Kathrin Jansen, Pfizer senior vice president and head of vaccine research and development, had told The New York Times that the company was “never part of the Warp Speed” and that it has “never taken money from the U.S. government, or from anyone.” However, a Pfizer spokesperson more recently told CNN and The New York Times that Jansen was referring to the research and development of Pfizer’s vaccine.

During the Nov. 18 episode of her show, Reid said, “I should correct what we reported last night, Moderna did receive funding from the administration’s Operation Warp Speed to develop the vaccine, Pfizer did not.” MSNBC did not respond to Check Your Fact’s inquiry about whether Reid would acknowledge that Pfizer participates in Operation Warp Speed as a supplier by the time of publication. (RELATED: There Have Been A Lot Of Allegations Of Election Fraud, We Looked Into Them)

Pfizer said on Wednesday that it plans to apply for emergency use authorization with the FDA “within days,” according to CBS News. Moderna is also expected to submit its vaccine testing data to the FDA soon, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Elias Atienza

Fact Check Reporter
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