The claim: The COVID-19 vaccine isn't being advertised on TV because all of its side effects would be legally required to appear in the ad
As the United States struggles to convince more people to get the COVID-19 vaccine, some are wondering why pharmaceutical companies haven’t taken to good old-fashioned advertising.
“Ever wonder why the covid vaccine isn’t advertised on TV like other medicines or other vaccines? Because any medicine or vaccine advertised on TV is required by US law to mention the side affects (sic) in the ads no matter what they are,” an Instagram post with more than 3,800 likes reads.
USA TODAY reached out to the post’s creator for comment.
While some aspects of the claim are true, its overall conclusion is false.
Advertising the COVID-19 vaccine
It’s true that COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers haven’t taken out TV ads to specifically promote their shots. But that’s not because they’re afraid to share the products' side effects with the public.
Dr. Robert Califf, former Food and Drug Administration commissioner, told CNBC in May that companies can’t promote their products under an Emergency Use Authorization – and currently, all three COVID-19 vaccines are authorized via EUAs. Once the vaccines are fully approved by the FDA, that would change.
“The vaccines will still have to be administered under the supervision of a professional who’s qualified,” Califf said. “It’s not like they can send the vaccines to people’s homes. However, they can advertise on TV and promote their products under the watchful eye of the FDA.”
Once a product is FDA approved and able to be advertised, there is still a set of rules that must be followed. All product claim ads, which name a drug and discuss its benefits and risks, are required to include the name of the drug (brand and generic), at least one FDA-approved use for the drug, and the most significant risks of the drug, according to the FDA. The ads must present the pros and cons of the product in a “balanced fashion,” as well.
For TV ads specifically, product claim ads must include the drug’s most important risks in audio form and either all the risks listed in the drug’s prescribing information or a list of sources for viewers to find the prescribing information for the drug themselves.
“This means that drug companies do not have to include all of a drug's risk information in a broadcast ad,” the FDA website reads. “Instead, the ad may tell where viewers or listeners can find more information.”
Vaccine manufacturers haven’t been hiding their products’ side effects, either. The most common side effects of the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) shots, which are each authorized for emergency use in the U.S., are listed on the FDA’s website.
Our rating: Partly false
We rate PARTLY FALSE the claim that the COVID-19 vaccine isn't being advertised on TV because all of its side effects would be legally required to appear in the ad. It’s true that the vaccine is not being advertised on TV currently and that the FDA requires product claim ads on TV to present the product’s most important risks. But the companies producing the vaccines currently can’t advertise on TV because their products are not yet FDA approved, and it is not required that all risks be disclosed in TV ads if a variety of sources for viewers to find the prescribing information is provided instead.
Our fact-check sources:
Instagram user @katie_conservative, July 31, post
Forbes, July 30, Why Hasn’t The FDA Fully Approved Any Covid-19 Vaccines Yet?
U.S. Food & Drug Administration, June 19, 2015, Basics of Drug Ads
U.S. Food & Drug Administration, July 23, Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine
U.S. Food & Drug Administration, July 7, Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine
U.S. Food & Drug Administration, Aug. 2, Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: COVID-19 vaccine isn't advertised on TV due to EUAs