FACT CHECK: Are There No TV Ads For COVID-19 Vaccines Because The Manufacturing Companies Would Have To List The Side Effects?

Mecca Fowler | Contributor

A post shared on Instagram claims there are no television commercials in the U.S. for any of the COVID-19 vaccines because “by law they have to list the side effects.”


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A post shared by Sun God ☀️♍️ (@sungodmazani)

Verdict: Misleading

While none of the three companies have advertised their COVID-19 vaccines on TV at this time, it is not because they would have to disclose all the side effects to do so. Television product claim ads must include the brand and generic name, at least one Food and Drug Administration-approved use and the “most significant risks,” according to the FDA website.  Pfizer, the only vaccine manufacturer that has received FDA approval for use in people 16 years and older, has plans to market its vaccine. The side effects for COVID-19 vaccines available in the U.S. are all publicly available.

Fact Check:

Some social media users are claiming there have been no television commercials for COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. because the pharmaceutical manufacturers are obligated to list potential side effects in such advertisements. “There are no TV commercials in the U.S. for the [syringe emoji] because by law they have to list the side effects,” reads one such Instagram post. “Fact Check that!”

While none of the companies that have produced a COVID-19 vaccine available in the U.S. have advertised their vaccines on television, it is not because they fear disclosing the side effects of the vaccines. A list of side effects for the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines have been and are all publicly available on the FDA’s website.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been approved for use in people 16 years and older, while the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are authorized by the FDA for emergency use. The letters of authorization for the emergency use authorizations lay out conditions related to “printed matter, advertising, and promotion,” including that “descriptive printed matter, advertising, and promotional material” relating to their use must clearly state they have “not been approved or licensed by FDA, but has been authorized for emergency use by FDA.” With full approval, the vaccine companies “can advertise on TV and promote their products under the watchful eye of the FDA,” former FDA commissioner Robert Califf told CNBC.

Ads that name the drug and discuss its benefits and risks are required to give both the brand and generic name, as well as at least one FDA-approved use and the “most significant risks,” according to the FDA website. Television ads specifically must present the drug’s “most important risks” in audio and include “either all the risks listed in the drug’s prescribing information or a variety of sources for viewers to find the prescribing information for the drug,” the FDA website explains.

Now that Pfizer’s vaccine has been approved by the FDA for use in people 16 years of age and older, the company has plans to advertise it under the brand name Comirnaty, Quartz reported. It is unclear if this campaign will involve television ads. (RELATED: Did An FDA Advisory Committee Conclude The COVID-19 Vaccine Is Unsafe For People Under 65?)

“We cannot share our specific plans at this time,” reads a statement Pfizer provided to Check Your Fact via email. “But, we plan to take a thoughtful approach to marketing and advertising COMIRNATY to the public during this time, with the goal of increasing confidence in vaccination as we continue to combat the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.”

Mecca Fowler