FACT CHECK: Did The WHO Director-General Say COVID-19 Vaccine Boosters Are Being ‘Used To Kill Children’?
An image shared on Instagram claims World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a press conference that COVID-19 vaccine boosters are being “used to kill children.”
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The image does not accurately reflect Tedros’ comments. While he did mispronounce the first syllable of the word “children,” he immediately corrected himself.
Tedros and other health experts participated Dec. 20 in a WHO media briefing in which COVID-19 vaccines were discussed, including distribution equity, according to a transcript of the event.
A viral Instagram post alleges Tedros said during the same press conference that COVID-19 vaccine booster shots are being “used to kill children.” It features a screen grab of a since-updated article titled “Freudian Slip? WHO Director Says Covid Boosters Being ‘Used To Kill Children’” that was published Dec. 22 by InfoWars. The website InfoWars has, according to Poynter, shared misinformation in the past. (RELATED:Does This Video Show A Malaysian Child Having An Adverse Reaction To The Covid-19 Vaccine?)
While Tedros did initially mispronounce the first syllable of the word “children,” he immediately corrected his pronunciation, footage of the media briefing shows. The transcript of his remarks quote him as saying, “So, if it’s going to be used, it’s better to focus on those groups who have the risk of severe disease and death, rather than, as we see, some countries are using to give boosters to children, which is not right.”
“What occurred on Monday at the WHO press conference during his delivery of the word ‘children’ is that he got stuck on the first syllable ‘chil’ and it came out sounding like ‘cil/kil,'” a WHO spokesperson told Check Your Fact via email. “He then correctly pronounced the same syllable immediately after, with it coming out audibly as ‘cil-children’. Any other interpretation of this is 100% incorrect.”
During the media briefing, Tedros went on to say, “Then the equity issues comes in here. Instead of boosting a child in high income countries, it’s better to vaccinate the elderly in countries where the elders have not been vaccinated, even the primary vaccines.” The WHO has previously said “children and adolescents tend to have milder disease compared to adults, so unless they are part of a group at higher risk of severe COVID-19, it is less urgent to vaccinate them than older people, those with chronic health conditions and health workers,” according to a WHO webpage about COVID-19 vaccination.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends for people ages five and up to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine has been authorized for use in children ages five to 15 and approved for use in people ages 16 and up by the Food and Drug Administration. COVID-19 vaccines are safe for children and teens, according to the CDC.