The claim: WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has not been vaccinated against COVID-19
Last year, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus railed against global inequalities in COVID-19 vaccine access, even delaying his own vaccination until the shot was more widely available.
Nevertheless, claims that he has not been vaccinated at all have gained traction recently.
A July 16 post from alternative video-sharing platform BitChute has helped spread the false assertion. It shows a 35-second long video of Ghebreyesus answering a question about getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
“I wanted to wait until Africa and other countries in other regions, low-income countries, start vaccination,” the WHO chief says in the video. “So I was protesting, in other words, because we’re failing.”
The BitChute post, which was titled “WHO director Dr. Tedros justifying his non-vaccinated status,” was shared more than 160 times on Facebook, according to social media data aggregator CrowdTangle, and accumulated more than 9,500 views.
But the claim is false. The clip does not include Ghebreyesus’ full response, in which he says he was vaccinated on May 12, 2021.
Photos, videos and statements posted by Ghebreyesus and the WHO show that the director-general received the COVID-19 vaccine, contrary to the viral claims.
Follow us on Facebook! Like our page to get updates throughout the day on our latest debunks
USA TODAY reached out to several users who shared the claim for comment.
Ghebreyesus is vaccinated
Ghebreyesus has been vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19, and in a social media post, the WHO pushed back on the recent claims that he is unvaccinated.
“Harmful misinformation on #COVID19 derails all efforts towards fighting this virus,” the WHO tweeted on Aug. 7. “@DrTedros has been fully-vaccinated and boosted.”
The viral clip in the false claims comes from the documentary “How to Survive a Pandemic,” which aired on HBO and traces the development of the COVID-19 vaccines. The documentary contains interviews with policymakers by science journalist Jon Cohen, including one with Ghebreyesus. That interview took place in June 2021, according to a Science article, which includes its full transcription.
The full exchange makes it clear that while Ghebreyesus waited several months to get the vaccine, he had already been vaccinated at the time the interview was filmed:
Cohen: I want to ask you about your own vaccination. What was the date you got your first shot?
Ghebreyesus: May 12.
Cohen: You’re the head of WHO. You could have said in December 2020, “I’m ready.” Why did you wait?
Ghebreyesus: I feel like I know where I belong: in a poor country called Ethiopia, in a poor continent, Africa. With the privileges I have here, maybe I had a chance to have it first. I don’t want to use that, because I want to be reminded every day that vaccination should start in Africa. I wanted to wait until Africa and other countries in other regions, low-income countries, started vaccination.
“I suggest you remove this,” Cohen wrote on Aug. 5. “You’re peddling a lie.”
Our rating: False
Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that Ghebreyesus has not been vaccinated against COVID-19. Photos, videos and statements posted by Ghebreyesus and the WHO show that the director-general received the COVID-19 vaccine. The video clip creates false context by excising the part of the video in which Ghebreyesus says he was vaccinated on May 12, 2021.
Our fact-check sources:
- Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, May 12, 2021, Tweet
- Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, May 17, 2021, Instagram video
- World Health Organization, Aug. 7, Tweet
- World Health Organization, accessed Aug. 8, Director-General Biography
- HBO.com, accessed Aug. 8, How to Survive a Pandemic | Official Website for the HBO Series
- Science, June 18, 2021, ‘I’m still feeling that we’re failing’: Exasperated WHO leader speaks out about vaccine inequity
- David France, Aug. 5, Tweet
- Jon Cohen, Aug. 5, Tweet
Thank you for supporting our journalism. You can subscribe to our print edition, ad-free app or electronic newspaper replica here.
Our fact-check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.