The claim: Biden admitted the pandemic was planned
As the delta variant rips through the country, the White House is continuing to promote COVID-19 vaccination as critical to slowing the spread.
Some anti-vaxers, meanwhile, continue to push misinformation about the virus and vaccines.
One viral video is mischaracterizing President Joe Biden's words about vaccine research to promote the false conspiracy theory that the entire pandemic was planned.
“Biden inadvertently exposes plan to cause pandemic on the world, saying they’ve been working on a vaccine for 20yrs,” claims text in the video that was posted to Instagram on Aug. 3 and has more than 6,000 views. “Why would you be working on a vaccine 20yrs for a pandemic that has not occurred yet?”
Fact check: Post misleads on origin of delta variant name
The video starts with a clip of Biden discussing vaccines before cutting to a narrator's voice.
“He just exposed it. Why would you be working on a vaccine for 20 years for a nonexistent pandemic unless you knew the future?” a narrator says. “They planned it and they put it out there.”
The video is paired with an Instagram caption that references the absurdist conspiracy theory that Biden is a reptile.
However, Biden was not saying the pandemic was planned in advance. He was talking about the decades of vaccine research that predated the pandemic and made fast development of COVID-19 vaccines possible.
This distortion of Biden's words on vaccine research is far from unique. In June USA TODAY debunked another video that similarly misrepresented first lady Jill Biden’s words on vaccine development.
USA TODAY reached out to the poster for comment.
Biden was referencing decades of medical research
Biden made the statement during his July 21 CNN town hall in Cincinnati.
When host Don Lemon asked what advice leading scientists were giving Biden about COVID-19 vaccines’ permanent FDA approval, he responded:
“What they're telling me is, ‘Let us decide based on scientific data and how we proceed. Do it the way we would ordinarily do it.’ Look, for example, everybody talks about how, you know, this virus came, this – the drugs that are designed to kill the virus came along so quickly. They've been working on it for two decades. There's nothing quick about this. It's been over two decades. So people say, ‘I'm not taking a drug that was approved so quickly.’ It's been two decades. The truth is, we haven't said it enough to people to allay their feels – their fears. This is nothing that just happened yesterday and we said, ‘Well, let's take a shot on this.’ ”
Biden did not say or imply he or anyone else in government had planned or initiated the COVID-19 pandemic.
Decades of research provided a head start on vaccine development
The decades of medical research Biden was referencing predated the COVID-19 pandemic and allowed researchers to rapidly develop vaccines.
While the virus behind the current outbreak is a novel virus, the world has seen other coronaviruses. After an outbreak in China in 2002, researchers began exploring a potential vaccine in preparation for a possible future outbreak of a coronavirus. This early work gave vaccine developers a running start when the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020.
This does not mean vaccine testing wasn't thorough. The vaccines still had to hold up through extensive trials for the emergency use approval they are currently authorized under.
USA TODAY has previously debunked claims that speculated about the COVID-19 vaccines’ fast development.
Our rating: False
Based on our research, the claim that Biden admitted the pandemic was planned is FALSE. A viral video misrepresents Biden’s statement that the science behind the COVID-19 vaccine was decades in the making as a confession that the pandemic was preplanned. Biden was discussing how decades of medical research on other coronaviruses gave researchers a head start in developing COVID-19 vaccines.
Our fact-check sources:
The Cincinnati Enquirer, July 21, Joe Biden town hall in Cincinnati: Here's the full CNN transcript
USA TODAY, Jan. 21, Fact check: The vaccine for COVID-19 has been nearly 20 years in the making
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, accessed Aug. 4, CDC SARS Response Timeline
National Center for Biotechnology Information, accessed Aug. 4, CORONAVIRUS RESEARCH: KEYS TO DIAGNOSIS, TREATMENT, AND PREVENTION OF SARS
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Biden said decades of research went into COVID-19 vaccines