Fact check: Image falsely shows COVID-19 vaccine vaporizer cartridge

·3 min read

The claim: Pfizer produced and marketed a vaccine administered with a vaporizer

With coronavirus infections recently surging in America to well over 1 million per day, the government has authorized more treatments to fight infections while also doubling down on its calls for Americans to get vaccinated.

One Facebook post purports to show a novel approach to COVID-19 vaccines.

The Jan. 3 post shows an allegedly Pfizer-manufactured coronavirus vaccine, contained within a vaporizer cartridge instead of the typical injection.

The photo was widely shared through multiple posts on Facebook, as well as on Instagram, totaling over 2,000 interactions since Jan. 3.

But this isn't a real product.

The packaging itself gives clues to humorous intent, referencing that Pfizer also manufactures medication for erectile dysfunction.

And according to the FDA, no inhaled COVID-19 vaccines are currently approved. While some scientists are researching inhalable vaccines, no such technology has been studied in humans.

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USA TODAY reached out to the Facebook and Instagram posters for comment.

Inhaled vaccines for COVID-19 not yet in production

FDA spokesperson Alison Hunt said in an email to USA TODAY that the FDA has not authorized any aerosolized or "otherwise inhaled" vaccines for COVID-19.

Onyema Ogbuagu, an associate professor of medicine at Yale University, said he “had a good laugh” at the photo – in particular the reference to Pfizer's other product.

He said inhaled vaccines are possible and researchers have tested that approach for other respiratory viruses. Such vaccines could have the advantage of inducing “mucosal immunity” within the upper airway where respiratory infections begin.

Still, Ogbuagu said he is unaware of any work by Pfizer to create one. Scientists speculated in 2020 about a possible inhaled vaccine for COVID-19, but those same scientists told the New York Times that several factors ranging from lack of knowledge of mucosal immunity to concerns over the efficacy of such vaccines meant that inhaled options would likely come farther down the line.

More recently, researchers at Stanford have attempted to create a nasal spray COVID-19 vaccine, and experiments involving mice and a virus closely resembling the coronavirus have shown encouraging results. As of November 2021, the researchers were hopeful that a human study would soon follow.

But such a study, in addition to authorization of any resulting treatment into a marketable product, has not taken place.

Fact check: Post about surgical masks' effectiveness against COVID-19 is missing context

This isn’t the first time the image has appeared online. The earliest versions of the photo appeared on Reddit and Imgur in December 2020, and other news outlets such as Reuters fact-checked the same photo that month. According to Reuters, Pfizer confirmed by email that the cartridge was fake. Pfizer did not respond to a request for comment from USA TODAY.

Our rating: False

Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that Pfizer produced and marketed a vaccine administered with a vaporizer. The FDA confirmed no such product exists, though research is being done on inhalable vaccines.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Photo falsely shows COVID-19 vaccine vape cartridge

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